Young conservatives storm Washington for CPAC. Bring on 2012, they say.
Half of the 11,000 attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) are college students. They're hoping to reproduce the youth enthusiasm of 2008 – but this time against Obama.
Looking over the sea of faces in the ballroom at the Marriott Wardman Park, one could be forgiven for thinking they were at a convention of College Republicans.Skip to next paragraph
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Fully half of the 11,000-plus attendees at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference are college students, according to CPAC organizers. And for many, spending three days in Washington with like-minded young people who aren’t in love with President Obama is a welcome relief. They witnessed the youth power that Mr. Obama harnessed in 2008, and now it’s their turn. Bring on 2012, already. It’s time for change they can believe in.
Many aren’t sure who they want to support, but it’s early. Most of the potential GOP presidential field are speaking here, and so coming to CPAC is one-stop shopping. Plus, it’s fun to meet politicians – maybe even the next president of the United States.
Mike Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, isn’t coming to CPAC, but Mr. Pawlenty, who just finished two terms as governor of Minnesota, spoke Friday. Mr. Tuttle calls Pawlenty a “principled conservative” who won in a liberal state and “did a great job cutting spending.” And why Mr. Huckabee? “He’s great at debating,” Tuttle says. “He’s a principled conservative too.”
Many of the students seemed to move in packs. The group from The Citadel, a military college in Charleston, S.C., was especially hard to miss: 55 young men, all dressed in gray uniforms. According to one cadet, there are about 200 students in the Citadel’s Republican Society, and the club helped pay for the most active members to attend.
George Hampton Cokeley, a Citadel sophomore from Charleston, W.V., says he’s leaning toward former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, though he hasn’t looked at the others. “I like that he’s a businessman,” says Mr. Cokeley, who appreciated Mr. Romney’s visit last year to the Citadel.
Fellow cadet Clifford Millar from San Diego says he’s leaning toward former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, who addressed CPAC on Thursday and also met with the cadets. “I liked his focus on foreign policy,” says Mr. Millar. “He wants America to be more respected in the world.”