I attended CPAC again this past weekend, and there is no question who stole the show: Sarah Palin brought the house down. Her reception was far and above even the Presidential field in attendance of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich. I happened to be innocently walking through the lobby of the Marriott Wardsman in Washingtion, DC, where the event took place, and saw a large scrum forming to my front. I wondered what in the world was causing the frenzy, and ever-growing crowd: Sarah Palin, of course. CPAC also included a screening of the political documentary Undefeated, which chronicles her rise to political power in Alaska, her fall from the auspicious heights of America’s most popular governor and the Wonder Woman of the 2008 GOP Convention, and her phoenix-like resurrection during the 2010 mid-term elections and beyond.
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I had the opportunity to meet the former Governor, while I was working on the Joe Miller for U.S. Senate campaign in the Last Frontier in 2010, and I have to say I was impressed. I guess I had a mixed view that had been formed, in part, by the media coverage of her during the 2008 Presidential campaign. My takeaway prior to meeting her (and something I’d heard from several others) was she’s right on the issues and has wonderful enthusiasm for the cause, but lacks the gravitas, experience, and depth of knowledge of the issues to effectively govern. What my time in Alaska, as well as seeing her incredible influence in 2010 election cycle, and now all reaffirmed at CPAC is that what she does have is the ability to connect with people and influence them to act. In this noisy age in which we live, that talent/gift is not something I’ve seen since Ronald Reagan occupied the White House.
During her CPAC address, she demonstrated the right combination of raw enthusiasm and righteous indignation that made her 2008 GOP Convention speech so compelling. Addresses before large crowds of conservative voters are clearly her strength. The line she delivered that brought the audience to its feet with the longest sustained applause was, “The Tea Party rose up because Americans woke up…We aren’t red Americans, we’re not blue Americans. We’re Red, White, and Blue and President Obama we’re through with you!” Another potent one-liner, “This government isn’t too big to fail. It’s too big to succeed.” That is the Tea Party encapsulated in a sentence and that is her gift: the ability to articulate what the crowd is thinking, and do it in a way that engenders an emotional response. Of course that emotion gets stirred both ways. A few minutes into the address, a handful of Occupy protestors started sounding off and were quickly drowned out by the crowd, and Sarah with joining in, “USA, USA..” The people then switched to, “Sarah, Sarah, Sarah…” Security escorted the protestors and a gaggle of reporters and photographers right in front of me, and in fact a reporter fell right on my feet.