Although President Bush, to the great regret of the sponsors and cosponsors, did not accept the oft-tendered invitation to speak at the 3lst annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), several current and former members of his administration did come to the Crystal Gateway Marriott in Arlington, Va. from January 22-24 to address the record 4,000 registrants on hand for CPAC 04. Bush Administration figures who participated included Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, Special Assistant to the President Karl Rove and, most prominently, Vice President Richard Cheney. One of the best-attended CPAC panels was that offering a preview of the 2004 elections. Moderated by veteran North Carolina political consultant (and ACU Board member) Marc Rotterman, the panel featured four seasoned experts on American elections: Jeff Bell, former ACU executive director and 1978 Republican U.S. Senate nominee from New Jersey; KellyAnne Conway, president of the Polling Company; Kane Richmond, former Des Moines (Iowa) police chief and now president of the National Rifle Association (NRA); and Human Events Political Editor John Gizzi, now in his 25th year with the nation’s oldest conservative periodical. All four of the panelists agreed that Bush would be re-elected, but that it would probably be a close race. Along those lines, Richmond underscored the critical importance of maintaining the conservative base and how the members of his organization do indeed turn out and do volunteer campaign chores for candidates who stand with them on the 2nd Amendment. Similarly, Conway emphasized grassroots and voter turnout mechanisms such as the “72 Hour” program that helped Republicans make gains in the mid-term elections of ’02. While agreeing with Bell, Conway and the others about the drawbacks of John Kerry and other Democratic hopefuls, Gizzi warned that Democrats would unite behind any candidate against Bush in the way that “they did in 1960 for John Kennedy–probably the least trusted of any Democratic candidate that year by the liberal activists because of a weak civil rights record, a controversial father, and being the only Democratic senator not to vote for censure of Joe McCarthy. But while they might have been ‘Madly for Adlai,’ the activists agreed with ‘Let’s Back Jack’ because they could not stand the thought of the Republican candidate as President. So it is this year with George W. Bush.
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