The annual Republican Leadership Conference - formerly the Southern Leadership Conference - opened at the Hilton Riverside in New Orleans Thursday afternoon. I'm here and will do my best to put down some thoughts so that it's not only the words written by all the national press here going out to you.
My flight from Houston didn't land until after 2:00pm Thursday so I missed out on the opening, where I am told the Pledge of Allegiance was to be said but due to an oversight, there was no flag to be found. These things happen. I missed the speech Mike Huckabee delivered.
When I walked into the room, Ted Cruz was almost finished with his speech. I so enjoy watching the faces of those who are hearing Ted Cruz for the first time because you see the connection they begin to feel as he goes on.He draws an audience in with his compelling personal story and then closes the deal with his solid beliefs in conservative politics. He's the real deal and those candidates don't come around too often. The crowd loved him.
The rest of the afternoon speakers were Gary Johnson and Thad McCotter. Both were decent speakers but a bit of a snooze, in my opinion. Johnson did use his knack of personalizing his political life and that was interesting.
After the dinner break, Irish tenor Anthony Kearns sang the National Anthem to reconvene the session. David Bossie spoke about Citizens United and his work. And then it was time for Newt. The man rocked the room. He was enjoying it, too. Following him was Michael Williams of Texas. A former Railroad Commissioner, he was running or U.S. Senate but switched to running for a new U.S. Congressional district that Texas gains after the last census.
Friday, after the New Orleans Jazz Brunch, Sharon Day opened the session. The co-RNC Chair, she introduced Herman Cain. Cain is a super star among conservatives looking for a non-traditional candidate. He received lots of support via applause, especially as he spoke of his business experience and dealing with the economy. He enjoys saying "I didn't get the memo" when talking about prominent conservatives not taking him as a serious contender.
Next Haley Barbour spoke about the need for unity after the candidate is chosen in the primary system. It is easy to like Haley Barbour as a speaker, if you are a conservative voter.
There was a panel discussion sponsored by ANGA, Fueling Prosperity and Enhancing National Security. It was a panel educating the audience about natural gas and the need for it on all levels - fuel production and a fuel source, national security, and employment opportunities. The panel was moderated by Ed Gillespie.
The crowd went wild for Michele Bachmann. She comes off as down to earth and audience is comfortable with her personal story. Mother of 5, foster mom to 23 children, her oldest child is a physician and her youngest is entering college. She and her husband worked their ways through college - her jobs included school bus driver - and they began their own small business. She is a tax attorney. The media's meme that she is stupid or incapable is wrong. She is the kind of politician who will stop and shake every hand and pose for every photo along the way out of a room.
Jim DeMint followed Bachmann, which was unfortunate. He is the exact opposite in speech delivery. He is more of the ordinary politician stump speech kind of speaker. After Bachmann fired up the audience, there was no way DeMint could compete with her. I find him to be arrogant but that may just be me. I know a lot of conservatives who really like him so there ya go.
Ron Paul was accompanied with the usual circus of loud, aggressive supporters. They arrive with their signs, shout and chant with applause, then they leave when Paul is finished. It was a zoo. And, yes, he spoke about the Fed.
Roger Williams spoke but no one knew him except for those of us from Texas. He is running for the U.S. Senate, too. He has a choppy speech delivery and resorts to using the socialist label of Obama.
Rick Santorum spoke of his time in office and how he learned it was more important to stand with his principles than to win an election without them, after he lost his last Senate race. He seems to prefer to speak about family and social issues but does talk of his holding the previous administration accountable when they were spending like liberals. Probably politician bravado mixed with actual events. I still don't understand how he can think he'll win presidential primaries when he didn't win his own state last time around.
The final speaker was Governor Bobby Jindal. The man was in his element. He entered the room from the back, not from behind the stage as the other did, and he was surrounded by his security guys and his beautiful wife. He never quit smiling. I won't lie - I've watched Bobby Jindal since he was appointed HHS Secretary in Louisiana at the age of 26 as I lived in the state then and it was obvious the guy was exactly what Louisiana needs, even then. I'm a big fan. He is running for re-election and has no serious opponent.
Governor and Mrs. Jindal hosted a Bayou Bash Friday night. Food and drinks for everyone. Governor Jindal shook hands and posed for pictures, as did his wife, throughout the evening.