CPAC II: Enter Ron Paul


More dispatches from CPAC, where minor presidential candidate Jim Gilmore (Virginia's former governor) held his first bash (slogan: "Restoring America's Faith in Our Conservative Ideas"), Ron Paul and Tom Tancredo shared a room, and a man battled a dolphin.

Dinesh D'Souza chats with Muhammad Ali Hasan of "Muslims for America," which launched in 2004 as "Muslims for Bush," and shares D'Souza's desire to destroy our values (I'm guessing).

David Horowitz sees a student being oppressed by his professors, and is moved to drop his baggage.

Presidential candidate Jim Gilmore deals with admirers. Most of the people at the Gilmore event had, to be charitable, no clue who he was, and were simply fed up with the other GOP candidates. One college student who "worshipped" McCain in 2000 told me he'd given up on him in December, after it was becoming clear McCain's Iraq surge would become policy and after "McCain made some hiring decisions I didn't like.

Gilmore was weirdly unimpressive; he included his membership in various conservative organizations' boards of advisors (like the NRA) as reasons to support him, which is a bit of a reach. But his speech was thinly-disguised Mitt Romney-bashing. He'd been a conservative "all his life," and he decided he was pro-life "four or five years ago." Really, there was only one candidate he could be talking about.

Justin, of the blog My Man Mitt, is challenged by the Romney Dolphin, who backs down after a barrage of follow-up questions on Romney's supposed flip-flops. I later learn the Romney dolphin (who won't reveal his name) was hired by Sam Brownback's campaign, which has a truly overwhelming presence at the conference. Speaking of overwhelming presences:

Activist/writer Marcus Epstein hands out Rep. Tom Tancredo signs after he's spotted by a crowd of ravenous Tancredo fans. The groundswell of support for Tancredo is pretty stunning; by the end of the day, there are more Tancredo stickers downstairs than for anyone except Brownback. The signs are being handed out for an event that follows this speech…

… by Rep. Ron Paul! A smallish room is literally packed for Paul's speech, which follows almost none of the rules of these things. Most politicians feed off applause; Paul seems to view applause as an irritant to wait out until he can get to the next part of the speech. He veers from a long, popular bit about government spending to a blast against neoconservatives ("They started out as Democrats!") and a loud, proud section about abolishing the Fed and bringing back gold and silver currency. There's a short Q&A; conservatives who had been warmed a little by Paul's speech ask for specifics on, for example, abortion. Paul says he can't do anything—in Roe, the Supreme Court just ratified the declining morals of Americans. If individual Americans convince each other to become pro-life, and they can change the laws in their states, that's how abortion will be limited. A college student I talk to afterwards calls this "wishy-washy."

Paul is followed up by…

… Tom Tancredo, who has a surprising, angry wit that puts the other candidates to shame. He mentions that he works next to a Congressman "by the name of Ellison"—Keith Ellison, the first Muslim congressman. The crowd erupts in loud, boos. "Oh, so you've heard of him!" And he wins everyone over with a story about how Ellison's office complained about Tancredo's cigar smoking, and how silly it was that the media covered this.

Here's a Tancredo fan from the speech.