The CPAC Effect Edition
This week, the field of hopefuls on the Republican side of the 2016 nomination circus faced a critical acid test -- the Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC. Every year, CPAC brings together the nation’s most engaged conservatives -- dedicated activists, media renegades, big-think specialists, and the college kids who all want to be a part of it. From there, their collective pull summons those in the Republican Party who most want to be its standard-bearer.
And this, in turn, presents every would-be presidential candidate with an interesting challenge. Because CPAC isn’t about gratifying party elites or wealthy Republican grandees. Neither is it about pleasing the Republican “base” -- by which we mean the masses of voters who prefer conservative policies. At CPAC, you try to satisfy the conservative movement itself -- whose members are most on the cutting edge of American conservatism, and always spoiling for a fight with anyone deemed to be lacking in purity.
So, we’re going to take another stab at ranking the GOP’s would-be nominees. However, this week we’re going to force ourselves to examine the field while looking through the CPAC prism -- a filter capable of making you question if the contender you thought was golden is really black and blue.
|RANK||CANDIDATE||PARTY||RISING OR FALLING|
|1||SCOTT WALKERMay have had the most perfect week of his career had he not compared Wisconsinites to ISIS; now learning all about damage control.||Republican||▲|
|2||RAND PAULFulfilled family obligation by winning CPAC poll, but couldn't keep the luster off of Walker's star.||Republican|
|3||JEB BUSHFirst time in a while that he’s walked into a room without just getting quietly handed some money; hopes it’s the last.||Republican|
|4||BEN CARSONHis best advocates weren't the firebrands but the crowd of kindly old grandmothers.||Republican||▲|
|5||TED CRUZStraw poll bronze medalist, but it felt like he finished off the podium.||Republican|
|6||CARLY FIORINAThis year’s version of the candidate that everyone loves but that no one will vote for.||Republican||▲|
|7||MARCO RUBIOTells CPAC crowd that he’s “learned his lesson” on immigration. So, that’s a start, at least.||Republican||▼|
|8||BOBBY JINDALHis big CPAC strategy was to assail “Washington.” You know, like everyone. Desperately needs a gimmick of his own.||Republican||▼|
|9||CHRIS CHRISTIE It's not the media that's your problem, governor.||Republican||▼|
|10||RICK PERRYCame to CPAC with an aim to get his “groove back.” His 1.1% in the straw poll put him behind Chris Christie (2.8%) and -- oof! -- Donald Trump (3.5%).||Republican||▼|
|11||MIKE HUCKABEENothing against the National Religious Broadcasters Convention, but the modern conservative movement is at CPAC.||Republican||▼|
Candidate Photos: Getty, Associated Press