- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

It is a first: The inaugural Conservative Convention on Thursday has drawn Sen. Marco Rubio, Sen. Ted Cruz and Ben Carson as featured speakers — along with a sizable group of media-savvy, outspoken conservatives with much on their minds. The evening event in South Carolina is hosted by talk radio kingpin Mark Levin and columnist Michelle Malkin — both senior editors for the Conservative Review, an online news and commentary site with keen interest in the pros and cons of GOP candidates, presidential in particular.

“The Conservative Convention provides a unique and important opportunity for all presidential candidates to bypass the liberal mainstream media and take their case directly to enthusiastic conservative activists,” says Mr. Levin, who expects a good crowd at the event venue in Greenville, which seats 15,000,

Also on hand, and on a mission: Sens. Mike Lee and Tim Scott, Reps. Jeff Duncan, Louie Gohmert, Trey Gowdy and Dave Brat; Bobby Jindal, Fox News host Sean Hannity, FreedomWorks chairman Matt Kibbe, columnist David Limbaugh, Steve Deace and Dan Bongino.

“There has never been a more important moment for conservatives to come together to show the country the power of conservative principles and policies,” says Mr. Lee. “This event, ahead of the South Carolina primary, will showcase the kind of agenda conservatives must get behind in order to take back the White House, return to constitutionally limited government and restore the promise of the American dream.”

MR. KASICH: ALSO CONSERVATIVE

He got traction in the polls and an increasing, substantial presence during recent presidential debates. Now Gov. John Kasich is ready to rumble, and in a conservative way. The presidential hopeful has just hired Shirley & Banister Public Affairs to work on his strategy and conservative outreach. The Northern Virginia-based firm just outside the nation’s capital has long negotiated the complicated, explosive political landscape for a spectrum of high-profile conservative clients — and knows just where to step. There’s some heritage as well.

Founder Craig Shirley is a best-selling Reagan biographer and historian, incidentally — and was on the team that ran a multi-million dollar independent expenditure for the National Conservative Political Action Committee on Reagan’s behalf in 1984.

MR. KERRY GOES TO HOLLYWOOD

They convened earlier this week in a swank office with a giant “Phantom of the Opera” poster on the wall. That would be Secretary of State John F. Kerry and a dozen major Hollywood studio heavyweights. The elite group assembled to talk “perspectives and ideas of how to counter the Daesh narrative,” Mr. Kerry revealed in a minimal tweet on Wednesday, using the lesser-known name for Islamic State.

Attendees included DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, 20th Century Fox Chairman Jim Gianopulos, Motion Picture Association of America Chairman Chris Dodd and Universal Entertainment Chairman Jeff Shell — who also happens to be a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the quiet federal agency that oversees the Voice of America and coordinates an enormous global broadcast outreach.

“The attendees discussed a variety of issues, including perceptions of America’s image around the world,” an unnamed source told the Los Angeles Times. The British Daily Mail had a more forceful take, noting, “Hollywood takes on ISIS: John Kerry meets with studio execs to plot counter-attack to fanatics’ propaganda machine.”

MR. KERRY ON MR. TRUMP

The aforementioned John F. Kerry had time for some late-night TV during his West Coast visit, and revealed a little something about a certain GOP presidential front-runner during an appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live!

“People who say, ‘What’s going on with this Donald Trump? Is he really going to ban Muslims from coming into the country? Do you hear about that stuff from people?’” Mr. Kimmel asked Mr. Kerry.

“I hear about it everywhere,” he replied.

“You do?”

“I do,” Mr. Kerry repeated.

HEADLINE DU JOUR

“Forget Hillary. Does America really need Bill Clinton back in the White House?”

— From a Fox News op-ed by attorney and retired Army colonel Kurt Schlichter

11 LIBERTARIAN HOPEFULS TO DEBATE

They’ve watched 16 officially sanctioned presidential debates for Republican and Democratic candidates come and go. Now it’s the third party’s turn. The Libertarian Party will host a presidential debate for 11 hopefuls from nine states later this month. The sizable cadre of candidates will assemble at the Beau Rivage Casino & Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi, and have their say before a live audience — “to lay out their campaign platform and explain why they would be the best option for president,” the organizers say. The glitzy site is part of the MGM Resorts group and overlooks the Gulf of Mexico.

On stage: Gary Johnson, who ran for president in 2012 and managed to accrue 1.2 million votes, plus John McAfee, Austin Petersen, Steve Kerbel, Darryl Perry, Cecil Ince, Marc Allan Feldman, Derrick Reid, Jack Robinson, Jr., Rhett Smith and Shawna Starling. The event is hosted by the Libertarian Parties of Alabama and Mississippi. No word on broadcast coverage. Yet.

POLL DU JOUR

26 percent of Republican voters say “strong leadership” is the most important quality for a presidential nominee; 20 percent of conservatives, 25 percent of tea partyers and 19 percent of evangelicals agree.

23 percent cite the honesty and trustworthiness of a candidate; 29 percent of conservatives, 22 percent of tea partyers and 28 percent of evangelicals agree.

22 percent say someone who “shares their values” is the most important; 29 percent of conservatives, 23 percent of tea partyers and 25 percent of evangelicals agree.

24 percent say someone who “cares about their problems” is the most important; 7 percent of conservatives, 15 percent of tea partyers and 10 percent of evangelicals agree.

9 percent say someone “with the best chance of winning” is the most important; 10 percent of conservatives, 9 percent of tea partyers and 11 percent of evangelicals agree.

Source: A Quinnipiac University Poll of 1,342 registered U.S. voters conducted Feb. 10-15; the sample included 602 Republicans.

Happy talk, major complaints to jharper@washingtontimes.com

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