Gingrich Enjoys Rock-Star Status at CPAC

Posted February 27, 2009 at 1:22pm

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) hasn’t lost his conservative appeal. Fifteen minutes before Gingrich was scheduled to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference Friday, the line to enter the Regency ballroom stretched to 100 people waiting to hear what ideas the GOP’s former leader would have for rebuilding the party. He did not disappoint. Continuing his tradition of entering from the back of the auditorium, Gingrich strode through the crowd to the thump of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” shaking hands with well wishers as he made his way toward the stage. He then systematically picked apart President Barack Obama until he arrived at the heart of his message: Obama’s policies are trending to those of his predecessor, President George W. Bush, and are “the boldest model to create a European socialist [government] I have ever seen.” Gingrich called on listeners to get involved in Congressional races and send a message that Republicans would not tolerate the Democrats’ policies. “We should leave here with two goals — the first is the election of 2010 and the ones this fall in New York and New Jersey among the most consequential ever,” he said, referring to a special election in New York to replace Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and New Jersey’s off-year gubernatoral election. The second goal, he said, is to defeat Members of Congress who do not read the bills they vote on, referring to the 1,000-page economic stimulus bill that passed the House with no Republican votes only hours after it was released by Democratic leadership. “We should set out … to find people who will actually read the bills before we vote on them,” he said. That message was not a crowd pleaser just for Gingrich. Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) also received resounding applause when recounting the House Republican Conference’s decision to unanimously oppose the stimulus. Senate GOP leaders who spoke earlier in the day talked about the importance of regaining seats in the Northeast, but also stressed that Republicans are going to have to change the face of the party to get back the majority. National Republican Senatorial Committee Chairman John Cornyn (Texas) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said that if they did not broaden the Republican Party tent, they were in danger of becoming a regional party — and a permanent minority. “We must broaden our party and increase our appeal among groups that share our values but don’t necessarily identify as conservatives or vote consistently as Republicans,” Cornyn said in the first speech of Friday’s CPAC meeting. “Being in the minority might be OK if you’re in a college debating society. … It might even be fun in a counter-cultural sort of way,” McConnell echoed in his speech later Friday. “But I assure you: It’s not good for America when we’re the minority, and none of us should be content to stay there.” And while repeating the mantra that their ideas were good ones, Cornyn and McConnell urged their base to open their minds so that Republicans could once again be a force in the Northeast.