COMMENTARY

For the American Conservative Union (ACU), their yearly Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is one of the most hyped events for Republicans and conservatives across the country. For the first time, this past weekend, the ACU put together its first regional CPAC here in Orlando, Florida. With speakers, and workshops lined up throughout the day on Friday attendees couldn’t be happier and more engaged.

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For the speakers, the attendees were afforded the privilege to hear from the top Presidential Candidates including Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann and the star of the weekend Herman Cain. Other candidates were there as well, but they are considered to be a lower tier by many.

Herman Cain talks with KnightNews.com

The event began at 8:30 with the Pledge of Allegiance and National Anthem. We were then introduced to the chairman of the ACU, Al Cardenas, whom used to be the Florida Republican Chair. He called on Floridians to make sure we help elect the next President of the United States.

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After the chairman spoke, we had the opportunity to hear from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, who has gone from almost front runner status to bringing up the behind. Her message was clear, she wants to make Barack Obama a “one term president.” This is something that she has been using on the campaign trail since the beginning, and it always seems to resonate well with voters, however, she is not so much anymore.

Next we got to hear from Mitt Romney, who has always had trouble playing to the conservative base of the Republican Party. His message seemed to resonate well with voters, especially since he is portraying himself as the candidate that can beat Obama right now. As former Governor to Massachusetts, he alienated the Republican base by passing a universal style health care law in Massachusetts. He tries to assure voters that it was the best thing to do for his state at the time, and on his first day in office he would sign an executive order issuing waivers to all 50 states that would allow them to opt out of the President’s health care law.

One of the candidates who spoke got a real nice welcome, as he always does, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He has put himself forward as the candidate that has the most experience, and also the policy knowledge to be able to effectively debate President Obama. This Thursday, Gingrich is planning a reintroduction of his Contract with America, which he has cleverly named the 21st century Contract with America. Gingrich is trailing in the polls, most of the time coming in below ten percent.

One of the most hyped speeches of the day came from Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who had quite a lack luster performance in the debate the night before. Perry who has had very strong poll numbers since entering the race about six weeks ago, has been criticized recently for his lack of fireworks in debates, as well as his stances on immigration and his mandate that required all girls in the state of Texas to receive the Gardisil Vaccine, which is known to prevent various forms of HPV. Perry had one of the largest following coming into the weekend, and it seemed to be a different story when the weekend ended on Saturday with the Republican Party of Florida’s Presidency 5 straw poll.

The man who stole the show was former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain. Polling in single digits, he has been the sweetheart of the race. He has consistently had the highest intensity rating amongst all GOP candidates in the Race. Every time he speaks, he seems to gain a new passenger on the “Cain Train.” During his speech, by my count, he had the most standing ovations as well as the longest one after he finished. The buzz around the convention center was unreal.

One attendee, A.J. Trommello, said that he felt “overwhelmed, and privileged being able to see all of the candidates in one place, basically one right after the other. Although A.J. hasn’t quite decided who he is supporting in the upcoming election, he knows that his opinion changed on two of the candidates: Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.

While talking to A.J., he also pointed out how great it was to see (what seemed like a lot of Tea Party members) be so welcoming to an African American candidate. He noted how discouraging it is hearing politicians on the left, as well as the liberal media “brand” the Tea Party as a bunch of racists. However, A.J. noted that two of the loudest cheers he heard from the crowd was for two African American’s: Herman Cain, and Congressman Allen West (R-FL).

Mr. Cain continued his strong performances from Thursday’s debate, and Friday’s conference with another one at the Presidency 5 straw poll on Saturday. Cain won with thirty-seven percent of the votes casted, just about 3,000. Following Cain in the straw poll was Perry and Romney within one point of each other. Former Governor and Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman and Congresswoman Bachmann rounded out the results with two and one percent respectively.

With just about 4 months until the Iowa Caucuses, the race is really going to begin to heat up. There are still a couple of big names out there who still might decide to the throw their name into the fray, Sarah Palin and Chris Christie. While most pundits have said their time has come and gone, some disagree and say they could really turn things upside down in the race.

It will be quite interesting to see how the candidates round out their fall debate schedule with the October 11th debate in Las Vegas, Nevada. The debate will be sponsored by CNN.

As for the ACU, they say they want to continue the regional CPAC idea. They considered the Orlando event to be a major success and look back to bring it back to Washington D.C. in February. However, they hope to hold the next regional conference in Chicago, the President’s hometown.