While watching CPAC last week, I was wondering to myself why Mike Huckabee wasn’t participating? Did organizers decide to snub him by not inviting him or did he snub the convention by refusing to attend? After all, Huckabee had been given a speaking slot in the main auditorium each of the last three years.
But this year Huckabee skipped the event and blasted it as pointless, corrupt, and too libertarian:
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee blasted the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Saturday as outdated, nearly corrupt and unrepresentative of the conservative movement.
Huckabee, a 2008 Republican presidential contender and potential 2012 candidate who had spoken at the conference for years, said the reason he blew it off this year was that the meeting has become dominated by libertarian activists.
“CPAC has becoming increasingly more libertarian and less Republican over the last years, one of the reasons I didn’t go this year,” Huckabee said in an interview with Fox News, where he is a paid analyst and has his own show.
He was responding to a question about whether he was upset by his single-digit showing in the conference’s straw poll, which was won by libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas).
But it wasn’t the only criticism the Arkansan leveled at CPAC.
Huckabee said the rise of the tea party movement had “taken all of the oxygen out of the room,” rendering the venerable conference far less relevant than it had been in previous years.
“Where CPAC was historically the event, the tea parties are having their own events all over the country and a lot more truly grassroots people are getting involved because of the tea parties,” said the former governor.
And, goaded by Fox Host Geraldo Rivera, Huckabee went even further.
“Because of the way that it solicits sponsors, it’s almost becomes a pay-for-play,” he said. “It’s kind of like, who will pay money to be able to be a sponsor and get time in the program. That’s one of the things that has hurt its credibility in the last couple of years.”
I have to say that I agree with Huckabee’s assessment that something has happen to CPAC when Ron Paul is winning its straw poll.
For the last three years, the poll has been won by Mitt Romeny with Paul hovering around 10% … and this year Paul beat Romney by almost ten points. In recent years, Paul has largely been treated as a sideshow by the conservative establishment which viewed him as far outside the mainstream of the movement but tolerated him because he had a relatively small but extremely dedicated base of support that somewhat overlapped with the movement in general.
The fact that Paul could pull in 10% of the vote at CPAC in previous years was generally a source of embarrassment to organizers. This year, Paul won (and organizers were utterly mortified.)
If that doesn’t signal that the conservative movement has completely lost it bearings, I don’t know what does.