Seventy-two hours and 389 speakers later, the Conservative Political Action Conference has come and gone, leaving declarations, blessings, questions, answers and maybe a few hangovers in its wake.
In the course of events, the 10,000 participants identified their foes: Democrats, liberals, progressives, Chris Matthews, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and anyone in the White House — and not necessarily in that order.
The crowd reaffirmed their heroes with gusto: God, Ronald Reagan, the late Andrew Breitbart, Barry Goldwater, the Founding Fathers, William F. Buckley Jr., Sen. Rand Paul, and a new entry to the traditional roster:
The 40th annual CPAC was themed “America’s Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives,” and those younger than 30 made up almost half of the crowd — 48 percent. They were as enthused about Reagan as those who once knew him. And they were ready to rumble.
“The appeal of conservative ideas is huge with Generations X and Y. Every room and workshop we had was filled this weekend. Conservatism is alive and well among us.” said Kate Edwards, a program officer with Young Americans for Freedom, which has chapters on 140 campuses.
She manned a public booth down to the last moments before the big closing speeches. A tiny tattoo of the word “love” in flowing script on her wrist accented her motions as she handed out fliers, and like many of her female peers, Miss Edwards was polite, well-spoken and smartly turned out in suit and heels.
She was quick to help three other young women seeking information; they act like old friends.
“You should see the Reagan Ranch in California” Miss Edwards told them.”We have retreats there. It’s so gorgeous, so fabulous.”
It is an authentic exchange, but one fueled by intent. She seriously seeks results.
“The most important thing any campaign needs to remember is this: If younger people think a politician actually cares about them, really cares about them, then that politician’s got their vote. It’s that simple,” Miss Edwards said.
In the grand hallway outside the main stage, the young conservatives gathered in boisterous knots to talk over their recent adventures, to ponder what they had seen.
Ian “Rooster” Jacobsen was holding court outside the general entrance, just prior to the big moment when Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas himself and American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas prepared to step on the stage and deliver the final remarks of the event.
Mr. Jacobson is 6-foot-3 and sports a 5-inch high mohawk haircut, burnished rusty red in the front for the Republican Party, and brilliant green aft for St. Patrick’s Day. He is a real-estate marketing student at the University of Texas, and definitely goes against the standard navy blazer and somber tie of most of his peers.
“I’m here to network. It’s fantastic,” Mr. Jacobson said, allowing that “plenty of hairspray and lots of practice” helped control his extreme hair, frozen straight up above his skull. He also knows his stuff and can reel of the issues of the day without hesitation.
“My appearance, well, I get a lot of attention with it,” Mr. Jocobson added. “People come over to see about my hair, and I’m going to tell them about health care, tax reform and Second Amendment rights.”
CPAC itself took good care of its young this time around. They had parties, book signings, movies, internship seminars, networking events, meet-and-greets, public-speaking workshops and at least one big party featuring the presence of “Obama zombies.”
But there was one last hurrah for the young and restless, and that was the “Blogger of the Year Award,” which went to the somewhat astonished Katie Pavlich, the young news editor of Townhall.com.
She had 10 words for her audience, both the old and the young.
“We have the world in front of us to conquer,” she said, and exited stage right, no doubt to go blog about it.