RedState.com editor and political commentator Erick Erickson brought his annual conservative grassroots activist conference to the Crescent City last weekend.
Erickson, a native of Jackson, Louisiana, argued that his gathering was unique in that the speakers had to pay their own way to attend, had to agree to field questions from the audience at the conclusion of their talks and allowed for interaction between the featured guests and registrants, in contrast to the annual C-PAC conference near Washington, DC, which attracts thousands of people and is held in cavernous venues.
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, Texas US Senator Ted Cruz and South Carolina US Senator Tim Scott mingled with the crowd after their speeches.
Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal, who has been criticized by his fellow Republicans in the legislature for being too insulated, hosted a reception and bantered with attendees for over an hour.
The one exception was Texas governor Rick Perry, who made a bee-line to the holding room and then departed not long after the conclusion of his talk.
GOP Hearts Nola
Though the city votes heavily Democratic, New Orleans has been a popular location for conservative soirees having hosted the 1988 Republican National Convention, the 2001 Young Republican National Convention, the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC), the 2012 National Federation of Republican Women board meeting and the 2013 Republican National Committee spring board meeting. There are rumblings that the SRLC will be making a return to the city next spring.
Ted Cruz- Superstar
While the crowd in the ballroom ebbed and flowed pending on who was speaking, it was standing room only for Texas US Senator Ted Cruz’s address. The son of a Cuban dissident and TEA Party favorite was clearly the star attraction at the conference. Cruz, who has benefited the most from Marco Rubio’s decline in popularity, also spoke at a fundraiser at GOP powerbroker Mary Matalin’s uptown home.
Rick Perry- Gratitude, Gaffes and Guesses
The now-bespectacled Texas governor opened up with a self-deprecating line that traced his spectacular rise as a presidential candidate and his sudden decline. Perry reminisced that he had announced his White House bid at the 2011 Red State conference in South Carolina, which he said, “that particular speech represented the closest I would ever get to the White House.”
Yet only two minutes later Perry would commit a gaffe reminding the audience why his kickoff announcement marked the highwater point of his presidential bid. While discussing areas that embraced conservative values, Perry said that “he was in one today in Florida,” to which a woman in the crowd corrected him that he was indeed in Louisiana, to which Perry replied that he had just said that.
Perry, who had recently announced he would not seek to further extend his already record-setting tenure as governor of Texas, fielded a question asking if he had any other political plans, including perhaps a second try at a presidential run. Perry gave an elusive answer, stating he would make that decision in about a year.
Only You Can Prevent RINOs from Being Re-elected
South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was not shy about sharing the role Red State supporters played in her uphill battle to win the GOP gubernatorial nomination in 2010.
However she was somewhat evasive about leading the charge against incumbent Republican US Senator Lindsey Graham, the bête noire of grassroots conservatives.
Stating she had already appointed one solid conservative to the US Senate, when selecting Tim Scott to fill the vacancy left by conservative stalwart Jim DeMint’s departure to the Heritage Institute, the Indian-American governor said it was up to the voters to decide Graham’s fate in what is expected to be a contentious primary in 2014.
“Okonoclast” with a West Bank Connection
Congressman Jim Bridenstine of Tulsa, who received applause for his boast of having refused to support John Boehner’s re-election as Speaker of the House, shared with the crowd his Louisiana connection while discussing his involvement in the war on drugs, having spent time in Belle Chase during his days as a naval aviator.
Saying the Magic Word
Scott, the only black member of the US Senate, was asked by one attendee during the “question and answer” portion of his time how an African-American candidate managed to initially win election to Congress from a majority white district. Scott’s reply- “I said please”.
Personifying “Persona non Grata”
While introducing local TEA Party candidate for US Senate Ron Maness, Erickson mentioned that Baton Rouge Republican Congressman Bill Cassidy had sought a speaking role at the conclave but was not turned down. Cassidy’s attempt to rent a table at the conference was also rejected and his attempt to participate in the event as a registrant was also blocked when his money was refunded.
The Red State leader cited his objection to Cassidy having previously donated to Landrieu.