To: Interested Parties
From: Brad Woodhouse, President, American Bridge 21st Century
Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2015
Re: Floundering Republican Candidates Are Desperate To Right The Ship At CPAC

It's CPAC time. That means thousands of Republicans are descending on National Harbor over the next few days. And at this rate, it seems that about half of them will run for president. Now all they need is one viable candidate.

The 2016 Republican presidential primary began unexpectedly early, when Jeb Bush made the December declaration that he was "actively exploring" a run at the White House, accelerating his rivals' timeline in the process. Maybe they shouldn't have jumped the gun. If the last couple months have shown us anything, it's how wildly unprepared for primetime this cast of presidential hopefuls truly are.

Bush's nascent campaign has been marred by one misstep after the next, from abject vetting failures to cringeworthy speeches to revelations about his problematic financial ties. Scott Walker has been getting pounded by the press as "spineless" after a parade of pathetic non-answers on straightforward questions, like whether he believes that evolution is real or the president is Christian. Chris Christie appears to have more supporters in luxury boxes and private jets than he has in New Jersey these days, as the one-time favorite has been relegated to a punchline. The list goes on and on.

And while CPAC offers a potential lifeboat for a slew of floundering candidates, navigating the waters will be dicey. It's no secret that the Tea Party has dragged the GOP sharply to the right. These days, having appeal with the grassroots Republican base and appeal with the general electorate are mutually exclusive. 

Already, many on the right distrust Jeb BushScott Walker, and Marco Rubio on immigration; for others, it's Rand Paul's isolationism or Chris Christie's Medicaid expansion that they find unacceptable. And to further complicate matters, the GOP is locked in an intra-party ideological battle that's on the verge of shutting down the Department of Homeland Security over opposition to the president's deportation relief. 

So how will these stumbling candidates manage to persuade CPAC's red meat crowd -- and more broadly, Republican primary voters -- of their conservative bona fides, without signing their own general election death warrants?

Here's my simple answer: They can't.

CPAC Day 1: Walker Compares Wisconsinites to ISIS, Christie Attacks Planned Parenthood, and Everybody Attacks Jeb Bush

Well, the first day of CPAC is over – and what a day it was. Between Scott Walker comparing labor activists to ISIS, Chris Christie bragging about he vetoed funding for Planned Parenthood five times, and pretty much everyone saying how bad Jeb Bush has it, day 1 provided plenty of insight into the rough and tumble GOP nomination fight that’s underway. Here are the top clips from today’s session:
Scott Walker on ISIS: “If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world.”
With these words, Walker not only insulted the hardworking people of Wisconsin by comparing them to brutal Islamic State terrorists for protesting his attacks on labor, he also showed just how inept he is when it comes to foreign policy.
Chris Christie: “I’m the first governor who…vetoed Planned Parenthood funding five times out of the New Jersey budget.”
Christie bragged to moderator Laura Ingraham that he’s “unapologetically pro-life” and the first governor of New Jersey to veto funding for Planned Parenthood, a.k.a., the organization that provides affordable quality health care and education for low-income women, men, and young people.
To the surprise of no one, Jeb Bush just couldn’t get any love today. First up, Texas Senator Ted Cruz:
Senator Ted Cruz: “Governor Bush’s views, obviously, on illegal immigration and Common Core, I disagree with those…. I know Governor Bush was quoted telling a Wall Street Journal gathering that he had to be prepared to lose the primary to win the general. I will confess, as a primary voter, that’s not encouraging.”
FOX News’ Carl Cameron: “Jeb Bush has a big hurdle to climb here, there are a lot of conservatives here who think…he’s going to be too moderate and not as truly conservative as they would like.”
Laura Ingraham: “Only about seven percent of Americans think we should have increased levels of immigration…. Jeb Bush has recently said that immigrants are more entrepreneurial, harder working, and more fertile than others. He even suggested…that Detroit should be repopulated with foreign workers – immigrant workers to spur the economy…. At a time when we have so many people unemployed…there seems to be a disconnect with the people.”
Chris Christie: Jeb Bush’s statement is “misdirecting the priorities.”
So, to wrap up today: Scott Walker thinks working families are the same thing as terrorists, Chris Christie likes to brag about denying health care to low-income women, and everyone thinks Jeb Bush has problems.
Check back tomorrow for coverage of day 2. With Newt Gingrich, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush on the docket, it should be just as good bad.

CPAC Day 2: Boos for Bush, Rubio Caves to the Base, and Perry Targets Walker Over ISIS

As promised, Day 2 of CPAC saw just as many fireworks as Day 1. Today’s schedule saw Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Rand Paul, Sean Hannity, Donald Trump, and Jeb Bush doing what they could to placate a fired-up Republican base.

Let’s start with Jeb Bush, who after taking heat all day yesterday would have to face a tough crowd.  After a morning session that threatened to bury him under a litany of boos, Bush’s supporters even brought a bus full of their lobbyist friends from K Street to his Q&A session with Sean Hannity. But that didn’t stop an audience walkout or still more boos over his immigration policy.  

The rowdy reception might even have been enough to make some folks trade in their free Jeb Nicaragua-made t-shirts.

Here’s a rundown of Day 2 of CPAC:

Boos for Bush

Sean Hannity’s Cattle Call Elicits Boos for Bush

Hannity: I have not decided who should be our nominee yet.  Who wants Marco Rubio – Senator Marco Rubio? (applause) Senator Ted Cruz? (loud applause) Senator Rand Paul? (thunderous applause)…Who likes governor Bobby Jindal? (polite applause) Former Governor (pause) Rick Perry? (applause) How many people like former Senator Rick Santorum?
(a few cheers)… Who likes Ben Carson? (applause) Who likes Governor Scott Walker? (loud applause)…I’m going to be back on stage with Jeb Bush and Donald Trump later. Are you guys staying? (Shouts of assent) By the way, anybody [for] Jeb Bush? Any supporters? (Loud boos)

Donald Trump Wants to Know Who Supports Bush
Donald Trump: Who is voting for…Bush? (loud boos from audience)…Common Core, illegal immigration, the whole thing are going to be a tough slog for Bush.”

Marco Rubio’s Idea of Leadership: Doing Whatever the Base Tells Him

Sean Hannity: “Let me ask you about immigration. You went forward with your immigration proposal and at the end of the day, you said, ‘It didn’t work, I tried, it’s not going to work.’”

Senator Marco Rubio: “Right.”

Hannity: “And you even kind of, last time I interviewed you on radio about it, you said you regretted going forward, you learned from the process, but you made a mistake. Explain.”

Rubio: Well it wasn’t very popular, I don’t know if you know that from some of the folks here.”

Rick Perry’s (Debunked) Conspiracy Theory

Rick Perry: “Now I wanna say this quite plainly: the unemployment rate is a sham. It leaves millions of American workers uncounted.”

Chris Christie Gets No Love

Sean Hannity’s Cattle Call Elicits Boos for Chris Christie
I have not decided who should be our nominee yet….  Any Chris Christie supporters? (Loud boos)

Fallout from Scott Walker’s Day 1 Foreign Policy Fail

Scott Walker’s insulting and ridiculous statement yesterday in which he
compared working families in Wisconsin to the ISIS terrorists garnered
him a lot of bad press, which has carried over to today:

Rick Perry: “Making the connection between ISIS and unions was a mistake. These are
Americans. We’re talking about people – in the case of ISIS – who are beheading individuals and committing heinous crimes. This is the face of evil, and to try to make the relationship between them and the unions is inappropriate.”