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Western CPAC: Images and First Impressions

John on October 18, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Morgen and I attended Western CPAC this weekend. The event was disappointing from an attendance standpoint and the only real news came from a panel Saturday morning that we missed.

That said, we had a chance to meet some of our favorite bloggers and to interview some of the most important conservatives in California. I have a few thoughts on each of them. Morgen may chime in or even put up his own post later. Let’s start with some pictures:

Now a few notes on some of the people we met:

Steve Poizner – He’s currently California’s insurance commissioner. He turned the department around from a deficit when he arrived about two years ago to a surplus. Now he’s hoping Californians will give him a chance to do the same statewide.

Poizner gave a solid if not particularly exciting stump speech. It conveyed some of the highlights of his career as a businessman, teacher and civil servant. I was impressed with what he’d accomplished if not bowled over by Poizner himself. I was also impressed by the scale of his plan for California, 10% tax cuts across the board and spending cuts statewide. He has a clear four point plan and he’s serious about it making it happen.

Even my initial impression of Poizner himself changed after about 10 of us had the chance to interview him in a small “green room” away from the main event. On the stump he came across a bit like, well, an insurance commissioner. But get him in a room in a real discussion and the guy has some impressive skills. He was smart, engaging, and knew the issues. He was able to handle questions on the fly, not rehearsed answers but thoughtful ones. He leaned forward as he spoke. He was animated. Eager. I liked him.

I liked his staff too. Bettina Inclan, his press secretary, is very good at what she does. Her boss, the Communications director, seemed sharp as well. And because Poizner has a background in technology, Poizner’s campaign is serious about using all the tools available to them.

Bottom line: If Californians are serious about dealing with the fiscal mess, this could be the guy who can get it done. Anyway, I went from vaguely knowing his name to actually believing he could be our next governor. That has to count for something.

Chuck Devore: Running for Senate against Barbara Boxer. Great sense of humor and one of the best speakers I heard all weekend. He’s a military man and you get that sense we he speaks and from the way he carries himself. He’s confident, forthright, and serious about his run for office.

Still, this is a real David vs. Goliath scenario. Frankly, it’s hard to imagine anyone knocking off Boxer, despite the fact that she’s an embarrassment. The power of incumbency is strong with that one. But Chuck Devore is not someone Boxer would be wise to ignore or discount out of hand. My up close impression: There’s a lot of grit and determination here, exactly the sort of thing you need if you’re looking to surprise everyone.

Dana Rohrbach: My congressman. Rohrbacher was on a panel with someone advocating the impeachment of the President. Rohrbacher was very clear that this was not helpful and actually counter-productive. He also spoke forcefully in support of Charlie Rangel, not because he’s a fan of Rangel’s politics but because he believed Republicans needed to set a different tone. He made clear that if the ethics committee were to rule against Rangel, he would be one of the first to ask for his resignation. Until then, everyone should respect the process and not do to Rangel what was done to, for instance, Tom Delay.

Rohrbacher is against sending additional troops to Afghanistan. He sees it as far too expensive. Cheaper, he believes, to simply buy off the locals. I don’t agree with him here. I think there are some people who can’t be bought off. That’s exactly why we don’t have Osama, despite the multi-million dollar bounty on his head. The President should listen to the advice of his hand-picked general. He won’t, but he should. It’s a shame that Rohrbacher is going to help the President back away following through.

Ralph Reed: Is he a vampire? Consider: The man hasn’t aged in 20 years. AND cats hiss when he walks by. Okay, I made that last part up. But it’s true he still looks like a guy in his late 30s. He, jokingly gave us the secret of his success: Eat healthy, excercise every day, stay married to one wife and never, ever watch MSNBC.

Ralph really knows how to speak to the base. He connected with people in a way that no one else at the event was quite able to match. He spoke about his new group, Faith & Freedom Coalition, and the work they are currently doing on the ground in Virginia and New Jersey. He believes it’s all about the ground game and it was convincing. I guess we’ll see the results soon enough.

I’ll have some pretty cool video of Andrew Breitbart, one of the weekend’s highlights, up tomorrow morning.

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