The Circus Comes to the Bay State: A Look at the March 1st Primary

The Circus Comes to the Bay State: A Look at the March 1st Primary

With only a few weeks until voting begins for the 2016 presidential primaries, Secretary of the Commonwealth Francis Galvin’s office has released the official ballot listing for the March 1st Massachusetts primaries. Four parties currently meet the definition of a “major” political party in Massachusetts and thus are allowed to hold primaries. Of these four, one, Evan Falchuk’s United Independent Party, is not contesting national elections and thus is fielding no candidates. The other three contain a slew of candidates, including a handful of lesser-known politicos that lack mainstream coverage.

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

JIM GILMORE
Former Governor of Virginia, 2008 Republican Party Presidential Primary Candidate
DONALD J. TRUMP
Businessman, 2000 Reform Party Presidential Primary Candidate
TED CRUZ
Texas Senator, Former Texas Solicitor General
GEORGE PATAKI*
Lawyer, Former Governor of New York
BEN CARSON
Neurosurgeon
MIKE HUCKABEE
2008 Republican Party Presidential Primary Candidate, Former Arkansas Governor
RAND PAUL
Kentucky Senator, Ophthalmologist
CARLY FIORINA
Businesswoman, 2010 Republican Nominee for California U.S. Senate
RICK SANTORUM
2012 Republican Party presidential primary candidate, Former Pennsylvania Senator
CHRIS CHRISTIE
Governor of New Jersey, Former United States Attorney
MARCO RUBIO
Florida Senator, Former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
JEB BUSH
Businessman, Former Florida Governor
JOHN R. KASICH
Governor of Ohio, Former Ohio Congressman

*George Pataki dropped out December 28th but failed to file the paperwork necessary to remove his name from the ballot.

With 13 names on the ballot, the Republican primary will be the most intensely contested race to come out of the night. While Donald Trump currently retains a lead in Massachusetts based on robocalling polls, the Bay State still functions as an opportunity for some of the more moderate of the Trump alternatives to stake ground in a free-for-all in the event The Donald flounders.

Marco Rubio currently sits in second place with enough support to earn him proportional delegation, followed closely by Ted Cruz. There’s also a surprise John Kasich factor, as recent polling from the neighboring state of New Hampshire show a massive jump to 20% similar to Jon Huntsman in 2012. Whether or not that will translates into momentum for him in other moderate states will depend on how the field changes following February, but there’s a very real inner-party dissatisfaction with the Trump Juggernaut and “Super Tuesday” may be the only real chance of inflicting a lasting blow.

Massachusetts is also somewhat of a touchy subject for the national Republican Party, who may feel inclined to tread carefully. Something that many voters go without knowing is that Massachusetts has a two part process for selecting both Republican and Democratic delegates. The March 1st primary will establish who gets the delegates, but the April 30th caucus will establish who gets to become the delegates.

In 2012, a coalition of conservatives, libertarians, and Ron Paul supporters mounted a strong bid against Mitt Romney’s delegate slate and swept the caucuses with a super majority. In turn, the Massachusetts Republican Party engaged the “Ronald Reagan Liberty Slate” in a legal clash which led to their being disinfranchised. This, coupled with a delegate walk-out and the RNC rules changes– seen as unpopular by many conservatives and libertarians both, left a foul taste in the mouth of a number of the 2012 Republican delegates, and these same delegates, now primarily behind Rand Paul, are sure to be out in full-force for a rematch.

With 42 delegates at stake, 27 of which will be divided proportionally, this state will surely be seen as valuable for the wing of the Republican Party chanting for a brokered convention, as well as those seeking to change the party platform.

DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

BERNIE SANDERS
Vermont Senator, Former Vermont Congressman
MARTIN O’MALLEY
Former Maryland Governor, Former Mayor of Baltimore
HILLARY CLINTON
Former Secretary of State, Former New York Senator
ROQUE “ROCKY” DE LA FUENTE
Businessman, 1992 Democratic Convention Delegate

The Democratic primary has had relatively little polling conducted in New England with the exception of New Hampshire. The few polls that have been conducted in Massachusetts, courtesy of Suffolk University and Overtime Politics, both show Clinton with a confident lead in the double digits. Looking at the results of the last three presidential elections, Massachusetts has traditionally sided with the “establishment” candidate as a final outcome.

In 2008, Hillary Clinton was able to parry Senator Barack Obama, and harking back to 2004, Howard Dean, an enthusiastic progressive stalwart, was able to barely lead John Kerry for a brief moment in time before his campaign crashed entering into the Massachusetts primary. Unfortunately for Bernie Sanders, who is shaping up to be the anti-establishment Democrat this cycle, he also lacks the youthfulness and excitement of both Obama and Dean.

Martin O’Malley, polling in the single digits, and businessman Roque De La Fuente, not even recognized by major polling firms, are unlikely to change their standings. If it’s any consolation, in the event of an O’Malley campaign suspension, cross-tabs show a 2nd choice preference to Sanders over Clinton. Considering the jaunty campaign organization that Sanders has been running, and running well, any additional volunteers and voters are sure to go a long way.

One thing that could impact the race in Sanders’ favor is the semi-open primary system that Massachusetts utilizes. Younger voters, first-time voters, and anti-establishment voters, the cornerstone of the Vermont senator’s constituency, are generally unenrolled voters. There’s a certain difficulty in polling such voters, as the sheer number of unenrolled voters in Massachusetts outnumbers both the Republicans and the Democrats. With that in mind, if turnout is low and unenrolled voters pull a Democratic ballot en masse, it’s realistic to believe that Sanders has the slimmest of chances. Regardless, with 59 of the 116 delegates up for grabs in Massachusetts based on proportional voting, Sanders could still walk away with a worthwhile haul.

GREEN-RAINBOW PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

SEDINAM KINAMO CHRISTIN MOYOWASIFZA CURRY
Green Party Activist
JILL STEIN
Physician, 2012 Green Party Presidential Nominee
WILLIAM P. KREML
Philosopher, Professor Emeritus of the University of South Carolina
KENT MESPLAY
Alternative Energy Advocate, 2012 Green Party Presidential Primary Candidate
DARRYL CHERNEY
Musician, Environmental Activist 

No scientific polling for the Green Party race has been conducted, but informal polling by individual green groups show a strong support for the 2012 standard bearer, Jill Stein. Stein, a Massachusetts resident, comes into the race being no stranger to the world of Bay State politics, having served the Green-Rainbow Party as a candidate for numerous offices, the most recent being their 2010 gubernatorial candidate. Her opponents, all green activists with established records of their own, lack the immediate organization and name recognition of Stein.

With the Republicans and Democrats actively engaged in contested primaries of their own, the Green-Rainbow ballot will unlikely be pulled by any unenrolled voters. With many nonpartisan progressive minded people rallying around Bernie Sanders, the race is sure to be decided purely by Green-Rainbow enrolled voters, many of whom would immediately recognize Stein. There’s little reason to see her not duplicate her almost 61 point victory from last cycle.

The Green Party awards state delegation seats based on numerous factors, including state recognition, so Massachusetts will be a valuable delegation for Stein going into the convention. In 2012, she won nine delegates of the eleven delegates in play and cinched the nomination.

UNITED INDEPENDENT PRESIDENTIAL PREFERENCE PRIMARY

WRITE-IN

Evan Falchuk’s Massachusetts specific United Independent Party has been advocating its members to temporarily change their registration for the sake of voting in other party primaries. As a result, the UIP primary ballot is a blank sheet.

Hypothetically speaking, a write-in candidate could be able to get on the general ballot via a blank primary ballot by being both the highest vote earner and earning at minimum the amount of signatures needed to originally qualify. Galvin’s office has stated that in the case of a presidential primary, the lack of a formal nominating convention would render such an attempt to “hijack a presidential primary ballot to be moot.

Evan Falchuk’s voters tend to side with anti-establishment candidates, as seen with an informal poll conducted within the UIP membership. If the mentality of this small group of 100 UIP voters is to be seen as representative of the entire party, Bernie Sanders is the most likely to benefit from the Operation Chaos style crossover being advocated by Falchuk.

As of September of 2015, the United Independent Party has claimed to have seen considerable growth with over 11,000 members in Massachusetts, although this could be reminiscent of the American Independent Party of California’s success with voters who mistakenly think they’re enrolling as independent.

One major party that’s missing this cycle around is the Libertarian Party. While Gary Johnson had an impressive showing in the 2012 cycle, breaking one million votes nationally and earning .97% in the Bay State, this doesn’t translate into automatic ballot access, nor was there any effort made by Libertarians to establish automatic ballot access going into 2014.

This however doesn’t mean the Libertarian Party has abandoned Massachusetts. Last fall, Worcester was the site of their first presidential debate, hosting four of the one dozen serious Libertarian hopefuls, and Massachusetts remains a valuable state with a split delegation that in 2012 had voted for Johnson as much as it voted for R. Lee Wrights. In a race where Gary Johnson only needed 297 delegates to win in 2012, Massachusetts’ prospective 19 delegates are a worthwhile investment.

Interestingly, failing to achieve major party status is sometimes seen as a boon to the success of the Massachusetts Libertarians. Unlike their fellow major-minor party cohorts, the Green Party and the United Independent Party, Libertarians are currently classified as a designation and subject to PAC laws, which allows them to take advantage of lower filing fees and much less stringent ballot access requirements in a state with arguably some of the harsher laws in the country. This comes with an equally hefty cost however as Libertarians lose the ability to have instant ballot access going into presidential years, as well as their names scrubbed from the quick enrollment ballots at the Registry of Motor Vehicles- something that many individuals in Massachusetts use to enroll as first time voters.

Other than the race for the presidency, the Republicans, Democrats, and Green-Rainbows will also have elections for both state and local committee seats on the ballot. In 2015 Massachusetts became the 21st state to allow online voter enrollment and Massachusetts residents have until Feb. 10 to register to vote in the March 1st elections.

Libertarians Meet in Worcester for First Presidential Debate

Libertarians Meet in Worcester for First Presidential Debate

As the first snow of the season graced the city of Worcester, so did the rank and file of the Libertarian Party faithful, meeting in the back of MacDonald’s Tavern. With around 30 participants packed into the bar, almost double the amount of 2014 attendants, the Massachusetts Libertarian Party conducted its annual state convention. Turnout was impressive considering they were competing for audience attendance with the Students For Liberty, a popular and like-minded pro-liberty youth movement holding a conference of its own in Boston.

Participants ranged from those who believed in the idealistic party to the people hoping to earn their vote come next May. Mixed in there was even a candidate for U.S. Senate out of California, who flew over to film the event and start what he called a Libertarian Party business network to compete with the likes of CNN and Fox News.

Massachusetts Libertarians listen to speakers
Massachusetts Libertarians listen to speakers

As dozens of party members made themselves comfortable, Massachusetts State Committee members recapped the hard work the party leadership has been doing to stay afloat, and what goals the party will have going into the future. They pledged money, support, and vision to turn the devout force into something capable of being a contender in the world of Bay State politics. From marijuana to membership, each member laid out their goals for the future if given the chance to retain their leadership roles.

Forgoing the classic ranked choice voting system that has long separated the Libertarian Party from its first-past-the-post major party peers, Massachusetts libertarians opted to go for a slate election to save on time. While this was a decision that left some uneasy for its appearance of steamrolling over discussion and its lack of the libertarian staple candidate “None Of The Above” option, including Darryl W. Perry, the motion was easily passed, forgoing what would have been a mere formality, and committee members, as well as Orlando national delegates, were voted in with one big swoop.

The Libertarian Party is famous for its ideologues and that sentiment was alive and well in the candidates who came forward seeking support. From the pragmatic to the downright anarchic, the third largest political party in the United States did not fail to provide a candidate for all strains of libertarianism.

George Phillies, chairman of the Massachusetts Libertarian Party, moderated the debate and gave the four presidential hopefuls an assortment of questions covering a broad scope of topics, ranging from domestic policy to the size of the military to the candidate’s own ability to run a functional campaign.

From left to right. George Phillies, Steve Kerbel, Darryl Perry, Dr. Marc Feldman, and Derrick Michael Reid
From left to right. George Phillies, Steve Kerbel, Darryl Perry, Dr. Marc Feldman, and Derrick Michael Reid

While the four presidential hopefuls overlapped on a number of issues, differing only in execution, there were still a few key differences that they hoped would separate them from the rest of the pack. Whereas Derrick Michael Reid, Darryl Perry, and Steve Kerbel generally agreed upon phasing out the role of social security in a libertarian society and the need for private accounts, Feldman bucked from the herd and preached about the benefits of using social security funds to refinance student loans, seeing it as intelligent business policy.

The same could be said for Darryl Perry and how he viewed the size of the United States military. Where candidates like Steve Kerbel called for a “descending crescendo” on the size of American armed force, Derrick Michael Reid wanted to just curb irresponsible American foreign policy, and Marc Feldman wanted to give the individual the chance to voluntarily fund the military through fees. Perry, on the other hand, openly called for a complete abolishment. “There should be no standing army”, Perry told listeners. “The question is how quickly can we get there?”

Taking time after the debate to ask the candidates further questions, I sat down with Derrick Michael Reid, who could be described as outside of the usual minimal government ideology to which his Libertarian contemporaries prescribe. Citing the significance of moral, societal, and economic codes, Reid discussed his concerns with the raw anarchy that might arise from having absolutely no government standards. “I’m not a total libertarian” he told me. “You need certain controls to prevent anarchy.” Among those he listed criminal justice, civil corps, legal bodies, taboos, and a moral code as such examples.

Unlike his fellow candidates, Reid spoke of implementing a smorgasbord of political thought in his administration. “I’d have a mix of Republicans, Democrats, Greens, and Libertarians. […] It would be representative of all political parties.” While he acknowledged that such a position may not necessarily be the most popular one to take, he reassured me that he knew what it would take to win and made no qualms in telling me. “I’m the only candidate who can appeal to the intellect and logic of all Americans. I plan to win the Whitehouse.” He said. “And big.”

Darryl Perry speaks before the audience
Darryl Perry speaks before the audience

Starkly contrasting him is Darryl W. Perry, who strongly embodies his home state of New Hampshire “Live Free or Die” spirit. Perry, clearly no stranger to speaking his mind, separated himself from the pack early on in the debate by going on record and saying that he supports “gun control”, and by that he jokingly meant controlling one’s firearm, and advocating for the legalization of everything, even going as far as listing crystal meth. In fact, he said he’d be most comfortable if all things were “regulated like tomatoes”, something he had told the audience earlier is surprisingly regulation free.

Perry had also made rounds earlier in his campaign when he went on record and said he would not file with the FEC or take American currency, something he continues to stand by to this day. “In his 1996 run, Ralph Nader also didn’t file with the FEC” he explained. As for funding, Perry told me he would only take “precious metals and bitcoin.” When pressed about Super PAC funding, Perry told me he would only take services. “If a Super PAC wanted to donate airline miles or tickets, I would use that but I will not take money or checks and I have turned down cash before.”

Steve Kerbel was a candidate who could be described as from the pragmatic wing of the party. “We need every voter to know that they are libertarian”, he opined to the crowd. “We need to speak in bumper stickers”. In true Libertarian fashion, Kerbel railed against government interference in the 2nd amendment, the 4th amendment, the job market, and abortion, staying true to his message of efficiently shrinking the size and scope of the government.

Kerbel stayed true to his sentiments even when pressed about racial tensions and the rise of the #blacklivesmatter movement in the United States. “I’m off the grid when it comes to Black Lives Matter.” he told me. “But we need to level the playing field [and] Individual liberty is my statement. Period.” Kerbel did attack private prisons however, and called them out for their failure to save money and their tendency to imprison even more people.

The last candidate who participated, Dr. Marc Feldman, harped on the significance of his campaign being a corruption free campaign, reminding the audience that his campaign is called “Votes Not for Sale” and not “Marc Feldman for President”. Feldman also made known his lack of executive experience, but discussed it as a strength, especially in a political climate where the likes of Ben Carson, Donald Trump, and Carly Fiorina are making huge waves.

Feldman also went on record and took positions slightly outside of traditional libertarian dogma, but tried to tie them into classic libertarian ideology. “I’m a supporter of Israel and the Israeli Defense Force” he said to a surprised audience. “But I would cut all foreign aid and would help them privately. In fact, Feldman styled himself a “libertarian populist” and explained that he supports an individual’s right to choose, even if that right is to support a government funded program that he may not necessarily agree with himself.

Absent from the debate was 2012 presidential candidate Gary John (photo courtesy of wikipedia)
Absent from the debate but constantly talked about was Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s 2012 standard bearer who netted over one million votes (photo courtesy of wikipedia)

No candidate drew more ire than one who wasn’t even in attendance. The 2012 presidential nominee, Gary Johnson, was a popular punching bag, getting called out by Perry for his outstanding 1.3 million dollar campaign debt and by Feldman for his inability to make the effort to participate in the campaign process. There’s some discussion as to whether Johnson is in fact a formal candidate or not, but as of an April interview with the Daily Caller, he had said he was gearing up for a run.

One topic not so wildly discussed during the debate was the fate of Rand Paul’s stalwart supporters in the Republican Party. While the Kentucky Senator continues to place in the GOP’s top ten, his waning support has drawn the ire of his Republican contemporaries to call for his dropping out. When asked about whether or not Paul supporters would be a low hanging fruit, the general consensus is no. “I’m looking for new voters. Those in the Republican Party are too hard to get out.” Marc Feldman told me. “I would be surprised if “Rand Paul the Republican” voters would even vote for Rand Paul the Libertarian”.

“There’s a reason they’re supporting Republicans” Perry agreed, before pointing to number of votes the Constitution Party’s 2008 nominee Chuck Baldwin and Gary Johnson, the two candidates who were most expected to profit from the elder Ron Paul’s 2008 and 2012 runs, ultimately achieved.

Nicholas Sarwark address the crowd
Nicholas Sarwark address the crowd

Nicholas Sarwark, the chairman of the National Libertarian Party, also attended the party convention as the keynote speaker. Sarwark gave an impassioned speech about standing with the party and how the national party seeks to run over 1,000 candidates in 2016. More importantly, he harped on the significance of working together and how the path to success for the Libertarian Party is to learn how to agree to not agree on every little thing and accept new members as they come. A shout of “statist!” was heard when he discussed a potential voter with a fondness of public schooling, as if to underscore his message. “It’s a wonderful word that means nothing to anyone outside of this group, and it’s mean!” he said, over applause.

The overall mood of the convention debate was that every candidate held their own, but some definitely won their New England peers over better than others. “Feldman did well- all of them did well” said Michael Coombes, a faithful member of the Libertarian Party told me. “But right now I would vote for Kerbel.”

Guests overall had a pleasant experience
Guests overall had a pleasant experience

Echoing him was Don Graham, a state committee member and delegate to the national convention. “The winner was Kerbel”, Don said, “but the party consists of reformers, minarchists, anarchists, and sometimes we walk over each other […] If we want to put a Libertarian Party president in office, we all need to work together.”

Sarwark himself was even very satisfied with the debate of the day, and content with the choices his party will have going into election season. “I think our candidates well represent everyone. I appreciate everyone who comes out to do this.” he told me. “The Libertarian nomination process is still one where the candidates have to work for delegates. It’s still very much a retail process.”

The Libertarian Party was founded in Colorado in 1971, and is dedicated to “Minimum Government and Maximum Freedom.” The 2016 Libertarian Party National Presidential Nominating Convention will be held at the Rosen Centre Hotel & Resort in Orlando Florida from May 27th to May 30th.

CPAC 2015 – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch But There Is Free Swag

CPAC 2015 – There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch But There Is Free Swag

National Harbor, MD — As this past weekend drew to a close, so did CPAC, the largest gathering of conservative activists in the nation, but between the booing of Jeb Bush, panelists faking heart attacks on stage, and a man dressed from the 18th century, the conference is far from ordinary. And there was free stuff. Oh, was there free stuff.

Participants vote in the famous CPAC straw poll.
Participants vote in the famous CPAC straw poll.

CPAC, more formally known as The Conservative Political Action Conference, is the annual conference offering conservative candidates, supporters, and activists an opportunity to come together to network and prepare for future election cycles. With over 10,000 participants, this American Conservative Union sponsored event draws activists from all stripes and colors. Yet the most significant aspect of CPAC is perhaps not its networking capabilities, but its famous presidential preference straw poll, acting as one of the earliest events to usher in the election season.

Expect the day to be dominated by free speech and free gifts. Speeches are a vital cornerstone of the CPAC experience, starting early in the morning and continuing into the evening. Conservative, and sometimes not so conservative, icons make up the schedule, with some speaking alone and others as part of a larger panel. Popular topics of the conference included the dangers of common core, promoting a strong military presence, ending the IRS, and stopping “Obamacare”, though many disagreed on a number of issues. Speakers raging from England’s United Kingdom Independence Party leader Nigel Farage to Hewitt Packard CEO Carly Fiorina take the stage, offering attendees an opportunity to hear from people they would otherwise never have the chance.

Donald Trump addresses CPAC.
Donald Trump addresses CPAC.

But if the large halls aren’t your scene, off to the side are smaller, more intimate rooms, giving attendees an opportunity to hear other speakers discuss specific issues and pet projects. Panelists range from former New Mexico Governor and 2012 Libertarian Party Presidential candidate Gary Johnson to former Speaker and 2012 Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, and unlike some of those in the main hall, discussion can get even fierier, depending on who’s getting to ask the questions.

Downstairs is “The Hub”, the name given to the loft like room directly beneath the speaking halls. The Hub serves as a “farmer’s market” of conservative political ideology, with booths advocating for a plethora of hot button issues and an almost endless supply of free swag.  Issues are as diverse and varied as the crowd in attendance, and as it often goes with such diversity, booths tend to overlap in message as they try to redefine conservatism.

One such group was the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property, or informally the TFP. A representative of the TFP explained that they are a lay Catholic men’s organization who have been sponsors of CPAC for “over 20 years”, and are seeking to defend traditional marriage, private property and enterprise, and Christ’s honor. Taking a moment from gathering signatures for a worldwide petition to encourage Pope Francis to take more conservative positions in the Catholic Church, he explained that even in the ever-increasing social libertarian CPAC crowd “it has been a good turnout [and] we’ve had a pretty supportive crowd.”

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum talks to supporters in The Hub.
Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-PA) talks to supporters in The Hub.

The Our America Initiative, an organization started by fmr. Governor Gary Johnson, was another group in attendance, and would be one seen as contrary to the TFP. While many preach for general conservative issues, or the restoration of the Republican Party, Our America’s booth is filled with Libertarian Party paraphernalia, bumper stickers, and quite a few pictures of Johnson’s face. Speaking with members of the booth, they expressed a skepticism of the de facto liberty movement head, Rand Paul, the importance of libertarianizing social issues, as well as the necessity of ballot access reform.

You might think you’ve seen it all, but the party doesn’t stop when the speakers leave for the day. Outside of the Gaylord Convention Center, attendees young and old flock to the many bars, clubs, and restaurants to mingle. CPAC has become progressively younger throughout the years, so the club scene has become increasingly more popular, with attendees in jackets thrown over club attire being something appearing on the internet’s comical “CPAC bingo sheets” in the past.

The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property is one of many groups that have booths in The Hub.
The American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family, and Property is one of many groups that have booths in The Hub.

But conservative activists aren’t the only ones showing up at night anymore. Sometimes so do the candidates, as was seen with Kentucky Senator, and possible presidential hopeful, Rand Paul, who came out to conduct an interview with Fox News’ Sean Hannity at a bar down the street from the convention center. Hannity, picking up on the scene, even jokingly said that he would open a tab and “fireballs were on him.”

As it goes, with such a large and diverse breed of activists now attending CPAC, emotions can run high. Most of the time, such instances are minor and just the occasional firebrand in the panel audience or the main hallway, but sometimes they get noticed, such as when Rand Paul’s supporters conducted a mass walk out on Jeb Bush during his speech. For the most part, things remain relatively calm and activists instead fight it out with who has the most colorful team pride. Sometimes, supporters give the word “colorful” a whole new meaning.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) takes questions from Sean Hannity at Bobby McKey's Dueling Piano Bar.
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) takes questions from Sean Hannity at Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar.

Abigail, a bubbly young girl with bright purple tips in her hair, represents some of the diversity that can be seen in attendance at CPAC. “Rand is the reason I’m here”, she said, proudly sporting the equally bright “Stand With Rand” shirt associated with his supporters. “He’s my choice candidate because he’s a real supporter of the Constitution. No other candidate seems that genuine.”

In contrast to Abigail, Ryan, a young man with a large sticker on his jacket reading “Jeb! 2016” sees things a little differently. When asked why he thinks Jeb is a decent candidate, Ryan actually referenced his positions, something putting him at odds with a lot of his peers, saying “It’s admirable that he has differing position and is not following talking points. He has flexibility [and] an independent streak.”

When asked about comparing him to his brother, Ryan was quick to dismiss any concerns. “He’s more conservative than [his brother]”, adding “look at his record as Governor of Florida”.

Newt Gingrich speaks in one of the smaller Potomac rooms.
Newt Gingrich speaks in one of the smaller Potomac rooms.

As for why others continue to attack Jeb Bush, Ryan expressed little concern. “There’s a candidate overload right now, and Jeb is the frontrunner, so it’s expected that he will be a target of everyone”, he explained.
Ben, a journalism student attending a Newt Gingrich panel, was another interesting stripe of activist in attendance. When asked which candidates he supported, Ben said he was a fan of both Rand Paul and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the latter being someone who has been heavily criticized for his stances in the party. When asked how he could be a fan of both candidates, he cited Paul’s sensitivities to the people of Westchester County, Yonkers, the Bronx, and other such locations.

“I’m Jewish and where I’m from there’s a lot of racial profiling”, Ben said. [Paul] is in touch with reality, [and] goes where poor people are and where they need to be helped.”

Regarding Christie, Ben explained “I support Christie on everything but cannabis. He’s on the same page [as Paul], but he’s a little too afraid to take on the establishment”

An enthusiastic supporter of straw poll victor Rand Paul holds a sign during his speech to CPAC.
An enthusiastic supporter of straw poll victor Rand Paul holds a sign during his speech to CPAC.

Ben also expressed favor towards individuals like Newt Gingrich, citing intelligence and respect as important qualifiers in a commander-in-chief.
Like all things though, CPAC had to come to an end, with Rand Paul winning the straw poll for the third year in a row, though with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker surging to a strong second. Conservatives left the conference feeling invigorated to stake their claims in the 2016 cycle. If there’s one thing that could be taken from the conference however, is that there remains an ideological battle for the soul of the conservative movement, and with the ever-changing demographics of the conservative movement in America, one that could possibly last for years to come.