Everyone who’s anyone in conservative politics is converging in Washington this week for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC – an annual gathering that’s been called Coachella for conservatism for attracting the biggest rock stars of the political right and thousands of their most ardent fans.
Mitt Romney, still the Republican presidential frontrunner, will address the gathered crowd on Friday. His main rivals for the nomination, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, will have their turns Friday too. (Texas Rep. Ron Paul, the other major GOP candidate and the man who won the CPAC straw poll the past two years, is skipping the conference this time around to instead campaign in Maine, which will hold its caucuses Saturday.)
But before the remaining contenders give their speeches, the also-rans had their turn. Former Republican contenders Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Perry all spoke on Thursday, as did South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, Florida Rep. Marco Rubio, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner.
Many – if not all – of the speakers attacked President Obama and the Democrats, often seasoning that red meat for the conservative crowd with dashes of political humor. Here, a selection of the most entertaining, controversial and buzzed-about quotes from the first day of CPAC 2012, collected from various media sources:
– Cain, who reportedly drew the biggest crowd of any Thursday speaker
“I can guarantee you Coach Coughlin did not tell his Giants to go out on the field and work with those other guys… They weren't cooperating with Tom Brady... The two teams had different goals. The Patriots were there to beat the other guys. Compromise works well in this world when you have shared goals. When you have shared goals, you can sit down together. We don't have shared goals with the Democrats, folks ... every time we compromise with Democrats, we spend more."
– South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, comparing politics to the Super Bowl
“I have a question for the president: Do you hate all rich people, or just those who are not campaign contributors?”
– Marco Rubio
“We do the American people no great service if we replace the current embodiment of Big Government with a lukewarm version of the same. We need to stop pretending that the main goal of the Republican governance is to do the same thing as Democrats, but just don’t spend as much money.”
– Perry, on the need for a true conservative standard-bearer as the 2012 Republican presidential nominee