Occupying CPAC

Occupying CPAC


Note from Joe: Two of my Producers, Sue and Liz, attended CPAC with me this year. They are both AWESOME at getting great interviews. You can see them in action in the photos linked above. What follows is Sue’s recap of our CPAC adventure! Enjoy…


CPAC may have started in 1973 but this year was a first for me. And I wasn’t alone! More than 10,000 people attended The Conservative Political Action Conference in D.C. last week.

I was beyond excited to party with all the other political junkie nerds but this event also included work for me. As a producer for the talk radio show, ‘The Real Side with Joe Messina’, my job was to shake hands, exchange cards and book interviews. Does it get any better than that?? Actually, yes but I’ll get to that later.

Three Republican Presidential candidates gave speeches on Friday and the fourth, Ron Paul snubbed us to campaign in Maine instead. His rabid followers were missed by not many. Honestly, I was only in the room for Santorum’s speech and listened to Romney and Newt on the monitors in between hand shaking and card exchanging. Being in the same room with the speakers makes a big difference in how the speech is perceived. It’s hard to know how the ‘vibe’ between speaker and audience is going when watching on the monitor.

Also, honestly, I’m a Santorum fan so making his speech was priority #2. Priority #1 was getting a picture with him but I got the next best thing; a handshake! I positioned myself ahead of his swarm of media to be in the right place at the right time and threw my arm between the men in black to get the coveted handshake.

Of course I loved Santorum’s speech and thought Romney’s and Newt’s speeches were just more of the same. I really like that Santorum articulates the truth rather than soft dances around it so as to not offend. He went straight to the heart when talking about the need for affordable energy. Affordable energy is at the core of equality and prosperity for all Americans. Rather than make promises to certain groups of people, Santorum lays out arguments for real action that will benefit everyone. He talked about his commitment to a balanced budget and real, actual, honest to goodness decreases in spending.

For taping and broadcasting interviews, we were assigned a booth for one hour for two days. ‘Radio Row’ may have been stuck in a corner of the basement but was a great place for celebrity sightings. Some of the more well-knowns making the rounds when I was there were; Michele Bachman (she is sooo nice!!), J.C. Watts, Ann Coulter, Grover Norquist (we got an interview with him, also very nice!) and Andrew Breitbart. Others I was very excited to meet were; James O’Keefe (he also gave us a few minutes), Mia Love (candidate in Utah), Ann McElhinney, Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, Star Parker, Joe the Plumber, and believe it or not, the famous game show host Chuck Woolery.

If I had to guess which speakers were crowd favorites, I’d say Sarah Palin, Marco Rubio and Allen West in that order. The love from the audience was loud and proud! Sarah was the closing speaker for the 5,000 people in the main room with the rest in overflow rooms, hallways and crowded around monitors. She was so popular than some gay magazine paid a couple of occupiers to try and disrupt her speech. Those poor occupiers didn’t know who they were dealing with. They only got about 3 words out before they were tackled by security and drowned out by the standing, screaming audience. Sarah, Sarah, Sarah…..!!!

Speaking of occupiers and my earlier comment about ‘what’s better’, bless their hearts they gave a good try at occupying CPAC. I’m pretty sure there were two different groups. The day group was paid by AFL/CIO $60 to hold a sign and march down the street. They had no idea who we were, what we were about or even what the sign they were holding said! The night group, I call ‘run of the mill rabble rousers’ managed to get up the hotel driveway while chanting that were are racist, homophobes. The hard working police pushed them back to the street, though. The most hilarious part about all of it was that this was the moment the conservative bloggers were waiting for, oh the excitement, the rushing from every hotel exit, the cameras clicking and the hoots and hollers!

We didn’t want to miss a moment of the fun so we followed closely behind the police line with camera phones on record. Once the rabble rouser/occupiers were stuck in the street they stopped chanting and we were able to start asking questions. There were the few wild crazies but they took off pretty early. I asked one girl why she called me a racist and she said it wasn’t her so then I said the sign she is holding says I’m a racist and she said it wasn’t her sign! After that, several conservatives broke off into civil, serious conversations with individual occupiers. We stood outside in the freezing cold with no coats for over an hour and half talking with them. At the end, each shook hands and we went our separate ways. The occupiers seemed to listen and it appeared they had never heard the facts and evidence we presented about economics, foreign policy, school budgets and taxes. If anything I wanted them to know that they held judgmental ideas about us that just weren’t true.

The things I didn’t know about CPAC is that mostly young people attend, half were youth. I really didn’t think Romney would win the straw poll but that doesn’t say much. Romney has won 4 of the last 6 and Ron Paul the other two. It’s all just for fun anyway. I also didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to vote because of my media credentials. I almost grabbed a poster and headed to the streets to protest for my right to vote!!

In my opinion, the credit for CPAC’s huge success this year goes to the unpaid, unknown, undervalued conservative bloggers. If you really want to know what’s going on with politics and current events follow a few hundred bloggers on twitter. We even got our own special party called BlogBash with open bar, prizes and awards. I love those odd, brave, social media addicts because without them we are left with the main stream media propaganda and when a country loses the free press, it’s all downhill from there!

What’s the point of CPAC? It’s like a pep talk to the troops, be brave, stand strong, be informed, tell the truth to whoever will listen, don’t back down, toughen up when they call you names and throw darts and most important – get involved!!

God willing, I’ll be back for CPAC 2013!