WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Day one of CPAC 2012 was filled with marathon speeches by Republican leaders and former presidential candidates, panel discussions and conversation about the upcoming presidential election. At the end of the day, however, a few things stood out.
The Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., Thursday was full of political buzz as Republicans descended on the Capital city for the massive three-day gathering of conservatives. After the chaos and craziness settled at the end of the day, however, some people came out winners; others were losers.
Marco Rubio: CPAC attendees had high expectations of the Florida Senator and he did not disappoint. With his optimistic phrases about the American Dream (Our greatness derives from our people), smacks at President Obama (He looks like he's a really good father and a really good husband, but he is a terrible president) and jabs at liberals (they call themselves progressives. I thought that was an insurance company), the Florida Republican received a standing ovation and much buzz throughout the day. He sounds like he's setting himself up for a vice-president pick, but he's denied he has the interest.
Rick Santorum: Santorum fever was everywhere at CPAC. In every direction you looked, Republicans were sporting stickers supporting the former Pennsylvania Senator who won Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota in symbolic contests Tuesday night.
Herman Cain: The Republican presidential race got a little duller after the Cain Train dropped out, but now the former Godfather's Pizza CEO is back lighting up the room with his usual witty sound bites. We were beaten to death last year with Cain's 9-9-9 plan but the audience was still happy to hear about it. He said he dropped out because of gutter politics and because he wanted to put his family first. His speech included gems like, y'all remember how I was a math major? I can count, and stupid people and ignorant people are ruining America. The audience, for the most part, loved it.
Mitt Romney: Romney garnered as much enthusiasm as broccoli. Maybe the front-runner had a few big fans at CPAC, but we had trouble finding them. A lot of attendees said things along the lines of, well, I'll vote for him if he's the nominee, but he's not my choice, or he's good, but I like this candidate better. Most Republicans just want some one who can beat President Obama in the general election.
Awkward Single Conservatives: Between Michelle Bachmann and slamming Occupy Wall Street, CPAC found time to lend a hand to young Republicans and guide them through the tricky terrain of dating. Dating coach Wayne Juggler Elise's advice session probably attracted more reporters than actual CPAC attendees, who were told they need to loosen up. Things got pretty awkward when the host said, we need to start talking about sex earlier.
The Marriott Wardman Park Hotel: Everything was going swimmingly for us in the morning, with Wi-Fi available in virtually every room of the hotel. And then suddenly, at around 1 or 2 p.m., it disappeared. This made it really difficult to file stories in a timely matter, research, or tweet. Why, Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, why?