Huffpost Politics

Chris Christie Attacks Media In Return To National Stage

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OXON HILL, Md. (AP) — Returning to the national stage for the first time since scandal erupted in his home state, a tough-talking New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Thursday that Republicans must "take on" the media directly as the GOP works to improve its image ahead of the midterm elections.

The Republican governor ignored his administration's recent troubles, but he flashed the fighting spirit that has largely defined his political career in a speech to conservative activists gathered in suburban Washington, earning a standing ovation after a 15-minute speech in which he declared, "We have to stop letting the media define who we are and what we stand for."

"The fact is, we've got to take these guys on directly," Christie said at the Conservative Political Action Conference, a three-day event in suburban Washington that has attracted thousands of conservative activists and opinion leaders and a host of prospective Republican presidential candidates.

He later called on party leaders and tea party leaders alike to "start talking about what we're for and not what we're against."

It was an aggressive message from a usually outspoken governor who has avoided the national spotlight since a political retribution scandal erupted in January.

Christie's remarks come as dual investigations in New Jersey threaten to drag on for months. Authorities are looking into twin scandals — an alleged plot to manufacture traffic jams as political retribution by Christie loyalists and alleged threats by two members of his Cabinet to hold up a riverfront city's storm recovery funds unless its mayor approved a favored redevelopment project.

Christie was among several potential presidential candidates scheduled to address the three-day conservative conference. Thursday's speaking program also included Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio.

Christie, who leads the Republican Governors Association, contrasted dysfunction in Washington against accomplishments by governors facing re-election tests this fall in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Florida. And he suggested that conservatives consider electability as they decide which candidates to support in the months leading up to the midterms.

"Please, let us come out of here resolved not only to stand for our principles, but let's come out of this conference resolved to win elections again," he said.

Conservatives have been reluctant to embrace Christie, who wasn't invited to last year's gathering in part because of lingering resentment over his embrace of President Barack Obama after Superstorm Sandy devastated the New Jersey coast in the heat of the last presidential contest.

Virginia-based conservative activist John Bloom held a sign outside the conference ballroom calling on attendees to walk out of the speech, referring to Christie as "Gov. Traffic Jam."

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Thursday found that three in 10 Republicans would not support a Christie White House bid. But he earned a largely positive response on Thursday.

American Conservative Union chairman Al Cardenas suggested that conservatives might be warming up to Christie because of the perception that Democrats and the media is "ganging up on him unfairly."

"Most conservatives, whether Chris Christie is their favorite candidate or not, frankly feel compelled to reject those who are going after him for political motives," Cardenas said. "Chris Christie has a wonderful opportunity to make the case to the activists who are here. But It's really all on his shoulders. All we're providing with him is a podium."

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From HuffPost's Elise Foley:

Sarah Palin delivered a biting, folksy speech to close out the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, going after GOP consultants, the NSA, Obamacare, liberals and the media.

Many of her digs in the 30-minute speech were targeted squarely at President Barack Obama, whom she criticized for his leadership and mocked for his "hope and change" 2008 campaign messages.

"That 'hope and change,' it went from a catchy campaign slogan to a reality, and along the way, 'hope and change,' 'yes we can,' it became 'no, you can't,'" she said. "No, you can't log onto the website. No, you can't keep your health care."

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While the politicians gave their speeches, the real action at CPAC was happening on the convention floor below. HuffPost Live brought along their intern Max to investigate.

Watch the clip here.

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"Stand up and stiffen your spine," she added, drawing loud applause from the crowd to close out the three-day conference.

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She added that it is "the end of an error," calling the president the "lamest of lame ducks."

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Palin lets the women of America know that conservatives' values are "family, faith and freedom," adding that females are "happy to lead the charge" for the movement.

"We're the party with the plank that protects even our littlest sisters in the womb," Palin said making a subtle reference to conservative beliefs on abortion.

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She credits Phil Robertson for battling back on his remarks that being gay is a sin, adding that "his fight was our fight and we pushed back and we won."

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Palin charges that the Democratic Party's agenda is "failure and fiasco on steroids." She also went after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), saying he would either end up being Senate Minority Leader, or a blackjack dealer, where "everything stays in Vegas."

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"Hat tip, NRA!," she exclaimed for a punctuation mark.

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And she responds by saying she didn't get a chance to run this morning. The crowd seemed to be prodding her to run for president.

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Palin thanks Texas for electing Sen. Ted Cruz, and credits him for an "awakening" with his filibuster. She said he forced debate, and that "liberty needs a Congress on Cruz control."

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Palin hits issues with the Obamacare rollout over the past year, joking that "No, you can't log onto the website" and "No, you can't keep your health care."

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sarah palin

...and begins with a bang, calling young voters the "Obamacare suckers"

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Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) won the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll on Saturday, according to the Washington Times and Associated Press.

Paul, who also won the straw poll last year, gains some early standing before November's midterm elections and the 2016 presidential election.

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Conservative commentator Kate Obenshain implored male Republicans on Saturday to stop making comments that put off women, alluding to previous elections sunk in part by the candidates' remarks on rape and women's issues.

"We cannot have any stupid comments this year, okay? No stupid comments. Think," she said. "You might think you're being funny. It might be kind of funny. Please think before you make of pithy, obnoxious comments. Think about how it's going to be spun. Can it be used to play in that war on women mantra? We need to be going on offense and not stabbing ourselves."

She said Republicans need to put forward conservative women to talk about women's issues rather than "older white men."

"When free contraception is being talked about, please, white men: stay behind," she said. "Let the women go and talk about these issues. We love white men, we love older white men, it's great. But we just have to promote our women in order to start resonating and in order for people to start listening to us."

-- Elise Foley

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Republicans have "an optics problem" with women, and some of the men aren't helping, a panelist said at CPAC on Saturday.

Crystal Wright, a communications strategist and the editor of ConservativeBlackChick.com, gave a take during a panel on "Why Conservatism is Right for Women" on why the GOP has struggled with women voters.

"Why do we continue to allow men to talk about our issues -- to talk about child rearing, reproductive rights, what's happening in the home?" she asked. "Why do we have men in the party talking in not great terms that is not helpful when you are talking about rape and spontaneous abortions, I'm not going to revisit the names of these folks."

She suggested the Republican party give a better platform to women to discuss women's issues.

"You see great women on this stage right now," she said. "We can talk very well about women's issues because we're moms, we're independent business women, we're running for office. I think at a basic minimum, it is an optics situation."

-- Elise Foley

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"Put on your seatbelts!" the host said, while running through their credentials.

cpac women panel

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From HuffPost's Dave Jamieson:

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Any right-wing confab probing the power of "big labor" suffers from an inherent contradiction: The ranks of unionized workers in the U.S. have never been so thinned, with less than 7 percent of the private sector now belonging to a labor union. A successful anti-union discussion therefore needs to strike a delicate balance, celebrating unions' diminished state while simultaneously insisting they pose as grave a threat as ever.

This rhetorical needle was ably threaded on Saturday morning by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, who moderated a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference entitled "On Wisconsin! Turning Blue States Red." The panel sought to answer a strategic question for the right: "After Wisconsin and beyond right-to-work laws, what’s possible now to free workers and students from unionism?"

While acknowledging that union membership has fallen to a historic low, Norquist began the discussion by claiming that unions are the greatest political force in America at the moment.

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From HuffPost's Elise Foley:

Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter and the Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus held a one-sided debate on Saturday that mostly served as a 50-minute screed from Coulter on the "browning of America" due to immigration.

Among other reasons to oppose reform, Coulter said: It would help Democrats.

"You want the Democrats who want more immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, because they need brand new voters, just warm bodies, more votes," she said. "Amnesty goes through, and the Democrats have 30 million new voters. I just don't think Republicans have an obligation to forgive law-breaking just because the Democrats need another 30 million voters."

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From HuffPost's Paul Vale:

WASHINGTON -- Dan Hannan delivered a bravura performance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Saturday morning, demanding a room full of predominantly American political activists “act worthy of themselves” as heirs to a common inheritance of Western values.

In a 20-minute address increasingly punctuated by applause, the British Eurosceptic intellectualised the conservative position, a rare approach at a convention in which the word “Benghazi” is enough to provoke a paranoid squeal, while invoking a brand of Atlantacism that honoured Britain and the US as the standard-bearers for constitutional freedom in an increasingly divided world.

“Think about the world as it stood in 1941,” said Hannan, invoking Winston Churchill, a character whose reverence in these parts is second only to Reagan. “Constitutional freedom was confined to the Anglosphere,” freedoms that were retained, Hannan argued, as a result of specific military victories in the Second World War and the Cold War.

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From HuffPost's Elise Foley:

Conservative activist Ben Carson didn't back down Saturday on any of his previous controversial remarks, announcing to the Conservative Political Action Conference that he "will continue to defy the PC police" in the media who have twisted his words on same-sex marriage and Obamacare.

Carson had a long list of claims to explain, including the time he said Obamacare was the worst thing since slavery.

"Of course they said, "Carson says that slavery and Obamacare are the same thing,'" he said of the media. "Of course they are not the same thing. Slavery is much worse, but bear in mind what happens with Obamacare. We, the American people, have with that program shifted the power that was given to us by the Constitution and by the founders to the government. It's the most massive shift of power in America that has ever occurred."

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Liberals sacrifice "people's lives and livelihood at the alter of their ideology," she charged, citing the California drought as a result of it.

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From HuffPost's Elise Foley:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) urged CPAC-goers on Saturday to make the GOP a party of big ideas rather than just fighting against President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

But he still took a number of potshots at the president, whom he sarcastically "defended" for going to Key Largo, Fla., this weekend while the crisis continues in Ukraine. Gingrich said Obama had already been ineffective all week in Washington.

"I believe he can be as ineffective in Key Largo as he was in the White House," he said, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd.

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Former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) charged that many Americans have "checked out of the public debate altogether," thanks to people not having the freedom to connect with their fellow citizens.

"What happens when we depend on big government so to solve our problems instead of ourselves?," he asked. "What happens? We know what happens."

DeMint added that government dependence is replacing community support. He stressed that the brilliance of America's founding was to live "in harmony while preserving different beliefs and ways of life." Now, "coercion replaces freedom," he said.

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