Students from conservative organizations on campus joined nearly 9,000 fellow conservatives and Republicans – who showed fresh energy after last year’s electoral defeats – in D.C. over the weekend for CPAC, the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.
The four-day long event, which featured some of the biggest names in conservative politics and punditry, drew participants from across the country – including students eager to mingle with top Republicans and party faithfuls.
In the wake of recent Republican election losses, conservatives banded together to hone their message for the next election cycle.
“We had our asses kicked in 2006 and 2008,” said junior Rob Lockwood, president of the GW chapter of the Young America’s Foundation. “What we were doing wasn’t working. It’s time to update. We’re not changing the message; we’re changing how we convey it.”
Lockwood spoke Thursday on a panel about new media. On Friday alone about 35 GW College Republicans were in attendance at the Omni-Shoreham Hotel, where most of the events took place.
Over four days, participants heard speeches from leading conservatives including former Arkansas governor and 2008 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and pundits Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter.
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., took the stage Friday at the kick-off event for YCC, the Young Conservative Coalition. When he said sarcastically he thought all young people voted for Barack Obama, he was met with raucous boos.
“Democrats think you’re stupid, that America’s stupid,” DeMint said in reference to the passage of the recent stimulus bill.
The construction of YCC began in December, and the weekend’s events marked their debut. The group hopes to lead the next generation of conservatives and rebuild the movement, starting with a video-marketing campaign. GW College Republicans Chairman Brand Kroeger is one of the founding members.
Newly elected RNC Chairman Michael Steele called on young conservatives Thursday to stand up. At the YCC event, audience members chanted, “It’s our time,” a message they carried throughout the weekend.
Roger Masi graduated from Rutgers University last year and attended the conference with a friend to promote his anti-stimulus, anti-bailout ideas.
“I came to see the spectrum of conservatives across the United States – and Ann Coulter,” Masi said.
Brendan Boyle, a junior from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island attended the conference along with 22 other members of their College Republicans chapter. He views it as a great opportunity to network with other young Republicans.
“CPAC is what makes a conservative a conservative,” Boyle said. “Being reminded of our values is very gratifying and reinforcing.”