Conservatives Have Reason to Cheer After CPAC 2009

Rush Limbaugh, in a speech at the 2009 Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, urged conservatives to quit thinking of themselves as a minority.

“ Stop thinking that it is being in the minority that liberates you,” Limbaugh said in what he jokingly referred to as his first address to the nation. “It is your beliefs. It is your core principles, it is your confidence that liberates you. It’s not being in the minority.

”For those of you watching my first national address and still hanging in there, we really are not that happy about being a minority, and we’re out to change it.”

Limbaugh’s speech, which aired on Fox News and was available through CSPAN, went almost an hour over its scheduled end time and concluded a three-day conference which featured Ann Coulter, Mike Huckabee, and several conservative leaders of Congress, including Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).

Mitt Romney was also in attendance, stopping Friday to chat with conservative bloggers on Bloggers’ Row before giving a rousing speech that afternoon.

“Some critics speak as if we need to redefine conservatism,” Romney told the CPAC crowd. “I think that misses the mark. America’s challenges are different from year to year, but our defining principles remain the same. Conservatives don’t enter each new political era trying to figure out what we believe. Facing new and complex problems, we find the answers in principles that endure.”

The direction of the speech was noticeably different from Romney’s address last year at CPAC, when he effectively pulled himself out of the Republican presidential primaries. On Friday, Romney challenged conservatives to look ahead rather than behind.

“We haven’t come to CPAC to dwell on battles we’ve lost,” Romney said. “We are here to get ready for the battles we’re going to win.

The former Massachusetts governor also won CPAC’s 2009 straw poll as the candidate people would most likely vote for as Republican nominee for president in 2012. Romney won with 20% of the 1,757 votes cast, while Gov. Bobby Jindal, who gave the Republican response to Obama’s address to Congress Tuesday, came in second with 14%. Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul tied for third with 13% each. The four shared a ballot with Newt Gingrich, Huckabee, South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford, Rudy Giuliani, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Nine percent of those voting remained undecided.

Limbaugh won the straw poll vote for favorite conservative media personality, followed by Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity.

Several of those appearing on CPAC’s various ballots were also on the list of speakers, including Sanford, who headlined the Ronald Reagan Banquet Friday night. Sanford told the crowd that when most people looked at the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina, they noticed the poverty. Sanford said when he looked at it, he noticed the dependence.

But the breakout star of CPAC 2009 wasn’t an elected official, media personality, or 2012 presidential hopeful. It was 13-year-old Jonathan Krohn , whose brief but eloquent appearance on the Two-Minute Activist: Conservative Victories Across the Nation panel got even the jaded media’s attention and created a stir in the media room. Krohn, who celebrated his fourteenth birthday Sunday, has already authored a book, Define Conservatism, inspired by an observation he made during the election that people didn’t really understand what conservatism was.

Conservatives may still be figuring out 2012, but at least Krohn has 2032 wrapped up.