WASHINGTON - The Conservative Political Action Conference has launched hook-ups, dates and even marriages, but for some, the annual conference of like-minded conservatives - many of whom are college students and twenty-somethings - romance can be about as hard to find here as a copy of "The Audacity of Hope."
"I came here to meet a nice conservative girl, but I think I'm only gonna meet crazy conservative girls," one lovelorn young man, wearing a red tie, remarked to his friend on the opening day of CPAC.
The annual CPAC gathering, which was held Thursday through Saturday at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Md., is part serious stage for GOP stars who deliver big-time speeches, part expo for activist groups, and part networking confab for consultants and behind-the-scenes GOP power players.
But it's also part party and flirtfest, well attended by young, college-aged conservatives from across America, who gather at happy hours every evening, decked out in in suits and dresses, all staying in the same hotel.
"There's a lot of hooking up that goes on," said one Republican strategist who met his future wife organizing a CPAC trip in his youth.
For the young women of CPAC, life can be rough, as awkward advances and failed pickup lines abound.
"It's been a long weekend," said Marianne Smith, 23, eyes rolling and her face resting in her hand. "Somebody asked me to join their 'Capital Club.'"
Asked for the worst pickup lines they'd heard at the conference, several young CPAC women revealed exceptionally bad ones.
"'Why don't you give me your number so I can give you information about my radio show?'" recounted Evelyn, a young woman affiliated with the group Network of Enlightened Women, who didn't want her last name to be printed. "I was like, 'Ohhhh,'" she said, mimicking her own disappointment. "It was ineffective."
"'So who's your favorite for 2016?' - that's [the line] everyone [is using]," said Megan Roberts, 23, who attended CPAC with the group Students for Liberty. "I've been getting a lot of, 'So where do you go to school?' Which I don't - I graduated."
"I do know someone who was given a hand-written note, with no comment, that said, 'You looked really cute in that outfit. Text me,'" said Emily, 27, who asked not to be identified by last name, for fear her employer wouldn't approve. "She said the guy looked about 19, too. He didn't notice the engagement ring. In his defense, she did look really cute in that outfit."
One young woman said a hopeful young suitor ranted about how much he liked Hillary Clinton.
Not all romantic interactions go so badly. What passes for game at CPAC can surprise.
"I don't think of myself as a fraternity brother," one young man, his tie loosened and the collar of his blue blazer flipped up, told a young lady who smiled and laughed at his banter near the Republican National Committee's lounge at CPAC's exhibition hall. He soon added, "I drive a Jeep."