Allen West and Connie Mack Speak at CPAC
Around the State
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) heard from two Florida Republicans Saturday, last day of the session.
Sponsored by the American Conservative Union (ACU), which elected former Republican Party of Florida (RPOF) chief, Al Cardenas, last week to serve as chairman, CPAC attendees heard from U.S. Rep. Allen West and U.S. Rep. Connie Mack.
West offered the keynote address to the conference, speaking to a packed room on Saturday. While West is new to Congress, having first won election in November, he is no stranger to CPAC. He attended in 2009 and has spoken at the 2010 meetings.
In a fiery speech, West took aim at liberals and defended the conservative movement from the left’s attacks that the right is racist. West also mocked former MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, noting that the liberal pundit named him as one of the “worst people in the world” on numerous occasions and was now out of a job.
"Liberal progressivism evolved after our Constitution," insisted West. "It has repeatedly failed all over the world, so why do we think it could be successful here in the United States of America?”
While West went after liberals, his fellow Florida Republican focused on foreign affairs.
Mack, who is a potential challenger to Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson in 2012, hammered the Obama administration and its approach to international affairs. The chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Western Hemisphere, Mack took aim at Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, a frequent target of the congressman.
“It’s time we stopped apologizing for America,” said Mack. “It’s time that, in this hemisphere and around the world, we stand up for America and the freedom and human dignity America stands for; stand against America’s enemies, and stand with America’s friends.”
Mack reinforced Chavez’s ties to Iran in his remarks -- and hinted that the U.S. needs to declare Venezuela a state sponsor of terrorism.
“Chavez wants to work as one with Ahmadinejad,” said Mack. “We ought to treat him the way we treat Ahmadinejad. No more happy handshakes at world conferences. No ignoring the menace of what Chavez has called the Iranian-Venezuelan ‘Axis of Unity.’
Added Mack, “Years ago, Chavez launched a silent war on America and all that America stands for: the world of freedom; the world of democracy; the world of enterprise; the world of law. He is against that world -- we are for it. We must act to preserve, protect, and defend it.”
“Let’s be clear about who Hugo Chavez is,” noted Mack. “He believes in intimidation and manipulation. He rules with an iron fist. As I said, he is a ‘thugocrat.’”
Cardenas presided over CPAC having taken over the ACU from David Keene who led it for more than 25 years. Florida Republicans praised Cardenas and cheered the news of his new assignment.
“Al is a principled conservative who was successful in winning elections and growing our party during his two terms as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida,” said current RPOF Chairman Dave Bitner. “I wish my fellow Floridian the best of luck, and look forward to working with him to promote our core principles of limited government and fiscal responsibility.”
More than 3,700 of the conference’s 11,000 attendees voted in a presidential straw poll which was won by Texas Republican U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who won the event last year. Paul took 30 percent while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney placed second with 23 percent. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and Gov. Chris Christie, who has shown little interest in running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, placed third with 6 percent of the vote each. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich placed fifth with 5 percent.
Two Republicans from Minnesota -- former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and U.S. Rep. Michele Bachman -- each took 4 percent, as did Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who did not attend, took 3 percent. A host of potential Republicans -- including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also did not attend, businessman Herman Cain, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and U.S. Sen. John Thune of South Dakota -- took 2 percent each. Former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, who did not attend, took 1 percent, as did Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.