My Winners, Losers and Takeaways from CPAC 2015

Now that I’ve had a few days to recover from CPAC, here are my thoughts on all of it.

The Activism Boot Camp was a very strong success. It was the first time in 42 years that CPAC has taken a run at having a coordinated approach to training. Kudos to the American Majority team for really driving it, but also to Leadership Institute, America Rising, Young Americans for Liberty and the others that participated in the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday training sessions. Wednesday afternoon’s turnout pretty much shocked everyone involved. We literally ran out of space/seats. Overall, almost 1,000 people came through the Activism Boot Camp sessions at CPAC. I think next year, in a Presidential, we can, and will, really kill it. 2,000 maybe?? I fully intend for the Activism Boot Camp next year to really take a step up. We will make. magic. happen.

It was the biggest CPAC ever, with over 11,300 official registrants (that does include the press, FYI), but if done right, no reason it can’t be 15,000 in 2016 with the White House on the line. The disappointing number for me? 3,007, the number of people that officially voted in the straw poll. I know that along with others involved with ACU and CPAC our goal is to really drive that number up in 2016. I’d love to see 6,000 voting next year.

Though none of the GOP 2016 potentials really hurt themselves at CPAC, there were winners and losers in my mind.

The winners: Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) 82%, of course, for winning the straw poll. Some might moan and groan about him winning, again, but listen: Young Americans for Liberty knows how to plan and then execute the plan. They brought 800 students to CPAC, pushed them hard to vote, and guess what? Rand won roughly 26% of the vote to win the straw poll. For all the earned media winning the CPAC straw poll gets, and we can argue the merits of all straw polls, that alone should get people more organized and motivated to take a run at winning it; Scott Walker for coming in 2nd in the straw poll without having as much organization behind him as Rand did at CPAC; Rick Perry for giving a great talk and handling his Q&A very well. Just wish he’d been that on top of his game in 2012; Bobby Jindal for yet again demonstrating that he’s probably one of the smartest guys in the field who knows how to communicate very well (his comments at the Activist reception Wednesday night while standing on a chair were awesome); Carly Fiorina. She can, and I think really will, be a major player in the GOP debates. She has the unique ability to be the GOP pit bull against Hillary and can do it with strength and class. I’ve said it before and will say it again: I would not be surprised if she makes the shortlist of potential VPs, especially if Hillary is the Democrat candidate. If she does make it to the VP slot on someone’s ticket, and there are always a lot of ifs, I’d unleash the pit bull and watch the pure awesomeness of it all.

The losers: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 100%. I’m not trying to be harsh, but his televangelist delivery was a little off-putting. And he only beat Ben Carson by .1% in the straw poll. Or basically 3 votes. Again, the straw poll is what it is, but there wasn’t exactly an outpouring for Cruz at CPAC (contrast that with Walker, who, as I was standing by the main stage about to do Q&A with him afterwards, had the crowd roaring for him); Chris Christie. Kudos to him for showing up, but I just don’t see it happening and it was an underwhelming Q&A session with him; Rick Santorum. . . enough said. . .

I’d be remiss in not mentioning Jeb Bush. He was booed. He was also cheered (albeit mostly by the K Streeters shipped in). But you know what? He knew he was going to face a hostile crowd, and he showed up anyway, unlike a Mike Huckabee. He was willing to face a crowd of thousands that was, to put it mildly, not exactly pro-Bush and that’s saying something.

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