National Harbor, MD – Let me give you the vibe that I’m getting from conservatives at CPAC. Not the kids. There are plenty of kids here, and they tend toward libertarian and they love Rand Paul. He will probably win the annual straw poll, although it’s not a certainty. He has a rival who has inspired lot of passion, whom I’ll get to in a minute.
Speaking with the adults here – the conservative journalists, analysts and various other seasoned activists and GOP veterans, the talk is about two people: Scott Walker and Jeb Bush. Attendees at the conference are already beginning to envision a primary race that has Walker running as the base’s favorite and Bush holding the banner of the moderates and the money, while trying to make inroads among conservatives.
Let me be clear here. I’m not telling you how the race is going to shape up or how I think it should shape up. It’s way early, and anything can happen. I’m just giving you the state of play, and the talk in the halls, at the most important meeting of conservatives in the country.
And frontrunners and favored candidates do win nominations. In the case of Republicans, they do it quite often.
That Bush held his own here shows his viability extends beyond his name and the money he is accumulating. And that Walker hit a home run here shows he is no mere flash in the pan.
Ted Cruz’s star isn’t shining brightly. I can’t tell you exactly why. At a meet and greet last night, Rand Paul spoke first and wowed the youngish crowd. When he finished, the announcer said Ted Cruz would be along any minute, and about a third to a half of the audience filtered out.
Nobody talks about Chris Christie. Floating around everywhere is Rick Perry, who is the governor of Texas, but you’d think he was the mayor of Shpinkleburg.
Carly Fiorina? Meh. She did well. But everyone thinks she’s really running for vice president. But I hear more talk of New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez as a potential distaff vice presidential choice.
Marco Rubio isn’t making any waves among anyone. Donald Trump? Superb comic relief. Bobby Jindal gave a wonky recitation Thursday and I haven’t heard his name mentioned since. Mike Huckabee isn’t here and doesn’t seem to be missed.
These things will change. But these things are not unimportant. Powerful interests, money, and advisors will get behind perceived winners. And while that hardly guarantees victory, it helps.