NEW ORLEANS — When ex-corporate chieftain Herman Cain told some 2,000 Republican officials and activists here that if he were president, the world would know that anyone who "messes with Israel messes with the United States," the audience applauded while two tour-bus loads of youthful Ron Paul supporters booed.
That triggered a counter reaction, with row after row of audience members at the Republican Leadership Conference rising to cheer and applaud Mr. Cain, who, like Rep. Paul, is running for the GOP presidential nomination.
The division in GOP ranks over U.S. policy toward Israel and the Arab and Muslim nations that surround it once again took center stage briefly but vividly.
A Virginia woman in attendance whispered to a companion, "I'm more libertarian than Republican, but I can't stand how rude Ron Paul supporters are."
The woman then joined the huge majority of attendees standing and cheering Mr. Cain.
Mr. Cain, as always speaking without notes, said that the tragedy of life is not in failing "to achieve your dreams but in not having any dreams."
"I have a dream," Mr. Cain said, adding that his dream is that conservative Republicans will be elected in 2012.
He said well-known conservative commentators have pooh-poohed his run for the GOP nomination.
"Bill O'Reilly said, 'Herman Cain doesn't have a chance.' Karl Rove doesn't take my candidacy seriously," Mr. Cain said, drawing cheers from a crowd that seems to take his bid seriously.
Mr. Paul, who deplores what he and some other GOP lawmakers say is an excessive U.S. policy tilt in favor of Israel, took the stage next.
The Texas congressman won repeated rounds of applause and yells of approval from the same audience members who showed their approval for Mr. Cain's position on Israel.
One of the most energizing announced or potential 2012 presidential nomination hopefuls was Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. She got a long standing ovation just for walking on stage.
"The tea party will be bigger than ever," vowed Mrs. Bachmann, who founded the Tea Party Caucus in the U.S. House.
"The day President Obama took office, gasoline was $1.79 a gallon and now its well over $3," she noted after telling the audience Mr. Obama had earned a "big F" in economics.
Halfway into her lengthy speech, she lost some momentum, with extended periods of silence from the audience in the Hilton Hotel ballroom. But she brought the crowd to its feet when she shouted into the microphone, "I will kill Obamacare" if elected president.
"Can you afford this president?" she asked. The crowd responded with a thunderous "No."
She pledged something few others have — to end the war on terror — "by winning it."
"I stand with Israel," she proclaimed, inspiring wild applause.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal delivered the kind of humorous, upbeat but still serious speech that once made him a likely GOP presidential candidate -- until he bombed in the 2009 GOP response to Mr. Obama's State of the Union address.
Still immensely popular with Republicans here, he told the audience that, "It is not appropriate to say you 'hate Mr. Obama.' But is right to say you will 'defeat' him next year."
While speakers before him called the president a socialist, the governor called Mr. Obama the most liberal president in the nation's history.
Conference organizer Charley Davis told The Washington Times that more than 2,000 credentials were issued to Republican attendees from 38 states for the annual conference.
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