CPAC Convention Is Open Season on Obama

Glenn Beck, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich bash president at conservatives' meeting.

February 20, 2010, 10:17 PM

WASHINGTON, Feb. 20, 2010— -- This year's CPAC convention was an all-out assault against President Obama, his party and his policies.

Big-name conservatives from all parts of the spectrum levied criticism against the administration, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich who told the crowd that it's time to "defeat the radicals and put the country back on track."

Conservative pundit and author Ann Coulter described life in an Obama presidency this way: "Now the entire country is like the terrorists in Guantanamo during the Bush administration. We're just waiting for a change of administration to be released from this hell."

It's no surprise that conservatives at the annual CPAC conference would skewer the Democrats. But they also took aim at their own party.

"After eight years of a Republican president and most of those times where we had majorities in Congress, conservatism did not fail America -- conservatives failed conservatism," Rick Santorum, the former Republican senator from Pennsylvania told the crowd this morning.

The key-note speaker, wrapping up the three-day event was conservative pundit Glenn Beck, who was given a rock star welcome when he walked into the event hall. He railed on Republicans for abandonning conservative principles.

"I haven't heard the 'come to Jesus moment' yet," Beck said. "I am a Republican and I have a problem."

Erick Erickson, who runs the conservative blog Red, said establishment Republicans should be more worried about the new conservative movement than even Democrats.

The Tea Party momentum has turned conservative politics on its head by bringing the former fringe into the mainstream, he said.

For example, the far right group, the John Birch Society, which was famously maligned by conservative William Buckley is this year a co-sponsor of the CPAC conference.

"It really is a strange prom," Erickson said. "People are coming together who would normally sit on the side of the room are getting out in the middle and dancing. This is their turn."

Overall, the audience at CPAC wanted to hear a unified message around two concrete demands: lower taxes and less government. And the speakers delivered.

At one point during her address to the crowd, Ann Coulter called for eliminating government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the CIA, and shrinking the IRS, at which point several people in the crowd shouted out "and the Fed!"

It's the kind of populist rhetoric that conference goers want to hear from their pundits and their candidates.

Ron Paul of Texas ended up winning today's presidential straw poll, beating out other big name challengers like Mitt Romney (who has won three times before) and Sarah Palin.

While the poll may say something about where the political enthusiasm is right now, analysts said it doesn't reveal much about who will actually win the Republican nomination in 2012.

So while there's no obvious standard bearer for the GOP, old guard party leaders like Newt Gingrich said the mission couldn't be more clear or more profound.

"I believe we are now in a struggle over whether we are going to save America," Gingrich told the crowd.

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