Dueling weekend political conferences in Minnesota ended on Sunday as presidential candidates addressed their base and liberal leaders looked to give their activists reasons to keep President Barack Obama in the White House and give Democrats back the U.S. House in 2012.
Conservative activists expected some kind of incident would happen when Congresswoman Michele Bachman, Minnesota Republican and Chair of the tea party caucus, took the stage on Saturday to address Americans For Prosperity’s annual conference Right Online in Minneapolis. As vaguely predicted, Rep. Bachmann, now a GOP presidential candidate, was reportedly “glittered” by two gay activists. According to Fox News:
The Minnesota representative kept on walking and waving at the crowd after she wrapped up her speech to the group, and barely flinched as she was doused by the “rainbow” flecks of plastic.
The activist, identified by the Minnesota Star Tribune as Rachel E.B. Lang, later told conservative blogger Ed Frank that she did it to bring light to Bachmann’s support of an anti-gay marriage initiative in the state.
On Friday afternoon I spoke with AFP president Tim Philips about the great probability that activists from the nearby liberal Netroots Nation conference would stop by and create a disruption during Ms. Bachmann’s speech.
“Michele Bachmann is my favorite member of the House of Representatives, just personally. I think she has a great voting record. A countenance that is unflappable. I think she’ll be able to handle it if there are any problems or issues. She’s not at her first rodeo,” he said. Other speakers at the Right Online conference were: Senator Mike Lee, Utah Republican, Rep. John Kline, Minnesota Republican, Rep. Thad McCotter, Michigan Republican, and Rep.Tim Huelskamp, Kansas Republican.
Like at last year’s Netroot’s Nation conference, Rep. Bachmann was a target for activists and speakers alike. Comedian Elon James White addressed Netroots Nation attendees on Thursday evening and gave his thoughts about the last GOP debate in New Hampshire saying:
“It was less like a presidential debate and more like a meeting of the Batman villains. They’re all like, ‘We have to stop the black…I mean the bat. And we’re not stopping him because he’s a bat, we’re stopping him, because we don’t like the policies he’s bringing to Gotham.’”
Mr. White then specifically went after Congresswoman Bachmann telling the crowd of liberal activists he “liked the fact” that Ms. Bachmann won the debate.
“Michele Bachmann won simply because she didn’t take a crap on the stage. That was it. The whole time it was like she seems reasonable,” he said. “That’s not why you win. You don’t win because you didn’t actually chew on cardboard on the stage.”
Despite the Bachmann incident above and a visit by Andrew Breitbart to the Netroots conference that caused a brief scene when a Netroots attendee armed with a video camera began hurling questions at Mr. Breitbart, run-ins between attendees at both political events were kept to a minimum or below the radar.
Other speakers at Netroots Nation included DNC Chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, former DNC Chair Howard Dean, Minnesota Democratic Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken, Congressman Jerry Nadler, New York Democrat, and Sen. Ben Cardin, Maryland Democrat.
“We made a decision when we first started Right Online to go wherever Netroots Nation goes,” said Mr. Philips. “They were kind of the granddaddy of online organizations albeit on the Left, so four years ago we picked Austin, Texas. Two years ago, it was Pittsburgh. Last year, it was Las Vegas. This year—Minneapolis. I think it’s great for our activists to see what we’re up against—to see just how dramatically left wing and big government these folks are. It’s a good thing for our people to see.”
Netroots Nation announced on Sunday that next year’s conference will be in Providence, Rhode Island. Does that mean Right Online will follow?
“I think so. You never know. We’ll make a decision from year to year, but for now it makes sense, although frankly we’re getting as big as Netroots Nation so we may want to go our own way at some point, but for now, yeah—it’s fun,” Mr. Philips said.