Say what you like about CPAC, (and there’s plenty to say from both sides) it is still one of the most high profile conservative events on the Republican dance card every year and it attracts the interest of conservatives across the nation who make up the GOP base. Because of this, folks who butter their bread via the conservative political arena, be they pundits or potential office seekers, make it a point to either show up or demonstrate their support. But 2008 presidential candidate and likely 2012 hopeful, former Governor Mike Huckabee took a slightly different approach this year. (Full story at Politico)
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee blasted the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Saturday as outdated, nearly corrupt and unrepresentative of the conservative movement.
“CPAC has becoming increasingly more libertarian and less Republican over the last years, one of the reasons I didn’t go this year,” Huckabee said in an interview with Fox News, where he is a paid analyst and has his own show.
“Where CPAC was historically the event, the tea parties are having their own events all over the country and a lot more truly grassroots people are getting involved because of the tea parties,” said the former governor.
“Because of the way that it solicits sponsors, it’s almost becomes a pay-for-play,” he said. “It’s kind of like, who will pay money to be able to be a sponsor and get time in the program. That’s one of the things that has hurt its credibility in the last couple of years.”
This is a particularly odd and puzzling story. Huckabee was never viewed as one of the RINOs of the party. He’s a Southerner with heavy, Christian conservative roots. While it’s true that some segments of the base had their own issues with him or preferred other candidates, the CPAC crowd is pretty much the baseline of his core potential constituency.
Further, his complaints come across as very odd. The money question should never have come up for him. True, CPAC isn’t cheap, and the prices this year – particularly for the full, diamond level access package – would probably seem dear to your average worker in a tough economy. But events like this are also not cheap to run. Decisions have to be made as to who you allow to sponsor it, and obviously some of them will raise questions. (One example being having the John Birch Society as a sponsor this year.) But that’s the way a large conference in the middle of D.C. gets off the ground.
His tea party comments are also rather confusing to me. Was he implying that the tea parties were ruining the event? Or was he implying that the tea parties had effectively replaced CPAC, making it “irrelevant” for the rank and file conservative? Either way, he was way off base. The topics being featured at CPAC – primarily smaller government, lower taxes, lower spending, less intrusion – seemed almost intentionally designed to tap into the tea party energy around the nation.
If Huckabee was simply being churlish over his traditionally poor showing in the straw poll, what’s the point of that? It’s not like the winner of the straw poll goes on to win the GOP nomination. (This year Ron Paul’s army of libertarian students ran up the numbers and gave the Texan the nod.)
In the end, all Huckabee accomplished was to further incense a large segment of the base which didn’t do much to support his candidacy last time around and will now probably be even less likely to back him in 2012. Then again, maybe he’s already decided he’s not going to bother running and will just focus on his role as a Fox opinion personality. This story will doubtless gain him a few points in the ratings for the next few days.