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2018 Conservative Political Action Conference Bears Strong Trump Imprint   
February 22-24, 2018*--Much has changed since thousands of conservative activists gathered for the last Conservative Political Action Conference one year ago.  Then Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist, and Reince Priebus, White House chief of staff, presented, if not a lovefest, a united front during their joint appearance from the CPAC stage.  In the months since then, the Senate has confirmed President Trump's appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court as well as more than two dozen other federal judges (>) and Congress passed and the President signed into law the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  As Vice President Mike Pence told attendees in his speech on Thursday, "2017 was the most consequential year in the history of the conservative movement."  It was also a year of chaos.  Priebus and Bannon are gone, and the never-ending stream of Trump controversies and reports of chaos in the White House continues. 

Looming over all the speeches, panels, networking, trainings and activity in the exhibit hall
at at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center was the persona and presidency of Donald J. Trump.  In addition to speeches by both Trump and Pence, an impressive lineup of administration officials addressed the conference including Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, HHS Secretary Alex Acosta, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt, OMB Director Mick Mulvaney, White House Counsel Don McGahn, and Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway.  (Also worth noting, Mercedes Schlapp, wife of ACU Chairman Matt Schlapp, serves as White House director of strategic communications).  Other speakers showed their support for President Trump.  House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes, a leading congressional defender of Trump, spoke on Saturday, discussing the release of the memo showing that FISA abuse had occurred and the Democratic response memo (which was made public that same day, Feb. 24 +).  Among the panels and breakout sessions were topics such as "The Trump Effect on American Politics," "#TrumpedUp: Unmasking the Deep State" and "New Sheriff in Town: How Trump is Taking Down Lawless Government Agencies."  Red Make America Great Again hats were much in evidence.  Speakers urged attendees to focus on and mobilize for the 2018 midterm elections, raising the spectre of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.  The mainstream media took a beating.

A handful raised questions or doubts about Trump and the direction of the conservative movement.  Columnist and analyst Mona Charen was booed for her comments during a panel when she said she was "disappointed in people on our side for being hypocrites about sexual harrassers and abusers of women who are in our party, who are sitting in the White House, who brag about their extramarital affairs, who brag about mistreating women, and because he happens to have an 'R' after his name we look the other way."  Others expressed concern about the appearance of the niece of Marine Le Pen, leader of the extreme-right Front National in France.

The CPAC audience provides a good representation of Trump's base.  According to the CPAC straw poll, which drew participation of 1,155 attendees, 93-percent of respondents described themselves as supporters of President Trump; 61-percent strongly approved of the job that Donald Trump is doing as President and 32-percent somewhat approved.  Conversations with attendees confirmed the straw poll findings.  Robert Tinley of Palm City, FL said, "I think he's doing an awesome job."  Richard Calgaro of Ocean Isle Beach, NC said Trump "has exceeded our expectations and it's only going to get better."  "I think the left has met its match and the media too," he said.  "This guy fights back.  He's a common sense businessman who's bringing commonsense to the swamp."  Steve Miroy of Northern Virginia said Trump is "winning."  "He has outsmarted the media," Miroy said.  He added that, "To watch him in action is like poetry."


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- Attendee Richard Calgaro
  Ocean Beach Isle, NC

An opening video dealt with "fake news."

An attendee brought a copy of Barry Goldwater: The Biography of a Conservative, a 1961 book by Bob Wood and Dean Smith, for autographs.
Day One  |  Day Two  |  Media  |  Exhibit Hall  |  Candidates  |  Faces
*Democracy in Action did not cover Day Three of the Conference.
Agenda [PDFs]:  Feb. 22 Feb. 23  |  Feb. 24 


 Democracy in Action Coverage of Past CPACs:
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