- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 12, 2016

It is a reassuring glow on the horizon: That would be CPAC — the Conservative Political Action Conference — now exactly seven weeks off and bustling with intense plans and a clear sense of mission. The ever-growing speakers roster includes Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, Reps. Jim Jordan and Marsha Blackburn, Carly Fiorina, Rick Santorum and John R. Bolton. Some 200 speakers typically appear at the three-day event, now scheduled for March 2-5, staged once again at the sparkling Gaylord National Resort on the banks of the Potomac River a few miles south of the nation’s capital.

A record-breaking 11,000 attendees showed up at CPAC last year; more of the same is expected. Such a show of force and purpose gives both the Democrats and the mainstream media a case of jitters. The Democratic National Committee typically stages a series of press conferences in an effort to distract the public from the event, while news organizations go into a particularly petulant CPAC-bashing mode.

But the two factions better buckle up. The theme of CPAC 2016 is particularly visceral this year: “Our Time Is Now” — gleaned from a speech Ronald Reagan gave before CPAC in 1981, calling upon his audience to stand “shoulder to shoulder in the thickest of the fight.” Find all the particulars here (and cheer up): CPAC.conservative.org.

THAT PESKY BIRTHER THING

Press, pundits, scholars, legal analysts and campaign rivals continue to insist that the increasingly popular Sen. Ted Cruz could suffer a setback among voters once they discover the GOP hopeful was born in Canada. But it’s complicated. A Public Policy Polling survey of Iowa Republican voters released Tuesday finds that Mr. Cruz is closing in on front-runner Donald Trump, 28 percent to 26 percent.



“In a race where only 2 points separate Cruz and Trump, the birther issue could really make a difference in the final stretch,” said Dean Debnam, president of the polling group. “Republican voters generally don’t think someone born outside the country should be president, and that’s why Trump is milking it for all it’s worth.”

Could there be collateral damage? The poll found that 32 percent of the respondents think someone born in another country should be allowed to serve as president. But again, it’s complicated. The poll found that less than half the respondents even knew that Mr. Cruz was not born in the U.S. In addition, more people thought Mr. Cruz was a native-born American versus President Obama, 34 percent to 28 percent, respectively.

Mr. Cruz may want to just stay calm and carry on, however. The poll also found that once respondents found his birthplace was Canada, only a quarter said it would make them less likely to support him; 65 percent said it “doesn’t make a difference.”

CLINTON CASH

It does not cease: There are eight fundraisers for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton in five states and the District of Columbia in the next 48 hours. Mrs. Clinton herself appears at three of them, and the other five will be hosted by daughter Chelsea Clinton, who has just announced she’s pregnant with her second child.

THE FRINGE CANDIDATES HAVE THEIR SAY

Maybe Rick Perry and Lincoln Chafee will show up. The “Lesser-Known Candidates Forum” will be staged next week at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics in Manchester, long the site of formal policy gatherings and official debates and discussions. The rarefied event has been around since 1972, draws considerable news coverage and was last seen in 2011, when 16 presidential hopefuls showed up from both Republican and Democratic persuasions, as well as a number of callings in between.

“Strong teeth for a strong America. My name is Vermin Supreme. I am a friendly fascist. A vote for Vermin Supreme is a vote completely thrown away,” explained the candidate of the same name during his opening statement. Mr. Supreme, a self-described anarchist and activist who wore a rubber boot on his head at the time, also promised a free pony to all Americans.

Organizers have yet to reveal who’s on the program this time, though they advise the event “offers a unique opportunity for citizens to hear from alternative candidates from multiple states.”

SECRETS OF THE TRUMP CACHET

Eager voters around the nation treat Donald Trump’s campaign appearances as they would a major entertainment event. No one can blame them. Thousands show up, wait in long lines, pay for parking and skip out on work to witness the famous Trump jet doing a local flyover — which it does on occasion.

Mr. Trump has five such jumbo events this week alone, and his appearance in Pensacola, Florida, on Wednesday is typical, prompting the Pensacola News Journal to publish a “Get Ready for Trump” guide for the event.

Mary Lis doesn’t describe herself as someone who has a hardcore interest in politics. She keeps up with what politicians are saying so that she can make the best decision when it comes time to vote, but she is not one to attend political rallies. Donald Trump’s candidacy, however, has sparked an interest in the insurance agent,” the guide noted.

“This is the first candidate that I have actually thought twice about or have actually looked in to,” Ms. Lis told the paper. “It really has a lot to do with his attitude. He is direct and to the point.”

POLL DU JOUR

44 percent of Americans are “very dissatisfied” with the direction of the U.S.; 67 percent of Republicans, 44 percent of independents and 21 percent of Democrats agree.

32 percent overall are “somewhat dissatisfied” with the direction of the U.S.; 25 percent of Republicans, 34 percent of independents and 38 percent of Democrats agree.

20 percent overall are “somewhat satisfied” with the direction; 7 percent of Republicans, 19 percent of independents and 33 percent of Democrats agree.

3 percent overall are “very satisfied” with the direction; 1 percent of Republicans, 2 percent of independents and 6 percent of Democrats agree.

Source: A Gallup poll of 1,012 U.S. adults conducted Jan. 6-10.

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