(continued from yesterday...)
I skipped the Newt Gingrich speech to go have a late lunch with friends and then go do my photo shoot at the U.S. Capitol building with brilliant photographer Amile Wilson. Amile is an independent filmmaker who also does photography on the side.
The photos turned out well and I was pleasantly surprised -- being that the skies were overcast and there was a lack of light. I have already posted some of them on my Facebook page and used some of them to replace my Twitter icons.
I returned to the Marriott to attend the fancy banquet dinner with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. I really liked hearing him speak and defend his actions. He made it clear that the union members in Wisconsin are absolute tyrants and socialists. And they are wrong and Walker is right. He only wants public employees to enjoy the freedom NOT to join the public employee unions. And considering the high cost they pay, that is probably the best idea to give them the option. The unions will spend millions to try and crush him because his actions are an existential threat to their existence. I took home a sign that says "I stand with Walker".
At the banquet I was lucky to run into my friend John Clark from Florida and met his good friend and fellow staffer Nick Scher. I had met John in 2010 when he was working with then-candidate Allen West of Florida. During the dinner, John, Nick and I had great conversation about how quickly things can change in politics. At CPAC 2010, then-candidate Allen West didn't get that much attention. At CPAC 2011, Congressman Allen West was invited to be the keynote speaker to close the convention.
We also remarked on the stunning path of Marco Rubio. At CPAC 2010, Rubio was a candidate for U.S. Senate, but was facing long odds against Charlie Crist. At CPAC 2011, Senator Marco Rubio was a bright star for the GOP. Now, at CPAC 2012, Senator Marco Rubio wins the Straw Poll as the top candidate for Vice-President. An amazing journey for both these men in just two short years.
Saturday morning is always the worst possible time slot for speakers. Of course, they awarded this slot to the rather dull Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. Plenty of available seating, due to the fact that some CPAC convention attendees go out partying on Friday night and can't wake up early on Saturday.
Jindal spoke, then was followed by Dinesh D'Souza, who is also of Indian descent and he joked to the crowd that it was "Indian American" day at CPAC. D'Souza was the author of "The Roots of Obamas Rage" and spoke at length about the psychology of Barack Obama and why he behaves the way he does. I think D'Souza was fascinating and he gave the crowd plenty to think about.
The highlight of the morning for me was an unknown Irish firebrand who I later learned is named Ann McElhinney. She's a producer of a movie called "Frack Nation" and her speech was clever and funny and charming. She had the audience roaring in laughter. I can't find that exact speech online, but here is a clip of her at a later seminar at CPAC, and you can get the idea of what type of public speaker she is.
I was surprised to see a lot of people clearing out and leaving the conference before the keynote speaker... but I thought about it and realized some of these activists were "paid attendees " from the campaigns of the certain Presidential candidates (i.e. Mitt Romney).
I was in the lobby when Sarah Palin passed through, and it created kind of a mob scene as people swarmed towards her. I did manage to get about 10 feet from her (photo above), but that was as good as I would get.
Sarah gave a great keynote speech that kind of took some indirect shots at Mitt Romney for being a phony Conservative. I loved that.
Sarah had her speech temporarily interrupted by protesters, but she shouted them down by getting the crowd to chant "USA! USA! USA".
Those that were watching on television probably wondered why she did that, because they probably didn't hear the protesters shouting from offstage.
Overall, I thought the conference was great.
One great new policy was the conference making the decision to limit each attendee to one single coded registration number to vote in the straw poll. I had seen people cheating in 2010 by voting downstairs, then running upstairs to vote again. This year you got a coded entry number and one shot at it.
Mitt Romney won the CPAC 2012 Straw Poll.
Ron Paul supporters were strangely absent this year.
But most CPAC attendees didn't mind.