President Ronald Reagan died nearly 10 years ago, but he is very much alive for many of the speakers at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference near Washington, D.C., this week.
The conservative-leaning Washington Times set the tone Thursday, CPAC’s opening day, featuring a photo of Reagan prominently on its front page: “ACU at 50: Strong, looking ahead,” the headline read in reference to the American Conservative Union.
Several conservative heavy weights picked up on the theme in their remarks to the gathering, considered the largest yearly assembly of conservatives in the country.
“We did it in 1980 with a grassroots movement that became the Reagan revolution. And let me tell you, the same thing is happening [now],” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas said Thursday. “Who are the two Republicans in modern times who have most energized young people? Ronald Reagan and Ron Paul.”
Other Republican speakers channeled the late president’s policies to make their pitch to voters for the 2014 elections. “Once again, the GOP is where the action is,” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said. “Just as it was in Jack Kemp’s day, at the beginning of the Reagan Revolution.”
Reagan’s two-term presidency ended 25 years ago, in 1989.
Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton channeled Reagan, who died June 5, 2004, at age 93, to lambast the Obama administration’s handling of the tensions in Ukraine, saying, “Can you imagine Reagan dealing with Vladimir Putin?”
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., echoed Bolton in his own foreign policy-heavy speech.
“Reagan dealt with the Soviet Union because they had nuclear weapons and he wanted peace, but he never accepted the Soviet Union,” Rubio noted.
Arizona state Rep. Justin Pierce, who introduced Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, also used the “R” word.
“I know it’s a little cliché for Republicans to invoke the name of President Reagan in our speeches sometimes,” Pierce said. “But I have to tell you, I am a Republican today, a conservative Republican, because President Reagan was the leader, of the ’80s, of my generation.”
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was the last major lawmaker on Thursday’s speaker list. He closed with what may have been a warning for the rest of the weekend’s speakers, saying (and later tweeting), “It’s time for the GOP to stop talking about Ronald Reagan, and start acting like him.”
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) March 6, 2014