The 2013 Conservative Political Action Committee kicks off this week amid a post-election identity crisis for Republicans, as party leaders and activists look back on what went wrong in 2012, and try to reshape the GOP for 2016. This year marks the 40th anniversary for the conference, and offers some big names in Republican circles. Former Presidential contender Mitt Romney will emerge from his post-election hibernation, along with other fan favourites like Sarah Palin and Allen West.
But the theme of this year’s conference is the “next generation of conservatives,” so the focus will be on newcomers who represent the way forward for the Republican Party going into the next election cycles. Here’s who to keep your eye on at this week’s conference.
A Tea Party favourite, Scott was appointed to his seat after Jim DeMint announced his resignation in December 2012. At the time he walked onto the Senate floor, he was the only black member of the Senate, and the first African American to represent South Carolina.
The ACU certainly likes Scott -- who holds a rating of 96 with the group -- and backed him wholeheartedly, urging S.C. Governor Nikki Haley to award him the seat, according to National Review.
Al Cardenas, the ACU Chairman, said Scott 'represents a new generation of conservative leaders and the future of the conservative movement.'
Rubio's star has risen rapidly since his speech at the 2012 Republican National Convention propelled him into the national spotlight.
The darling of both Establishment Republicans and the Tea Party movement, Rubio has been at the forefront of the Republican Party's efforts to appeal to youth and Latino voters, taking the lead on immigration reform and frequently showing off his knowledge of '90s gangsta rap on social media. He even managed to turn his awkward water-lunge moment during the GOP's State of the Union response into a meme.
With a 100 per cent legislative rating from the ACU, Rubio has conservative bona fides, as well as charisma and a compelling personal story. Should he decide to run in 2016, Rubio would already be counted among the top contenders.
The filibuster spectacle has elevated Paul up the GOP 'food chain,' revealing him to be an innovative leader within the party and a formidable contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
The 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee was the first big-name speaker confirmed for CPAC this year, and he's on everybody's radar as a possible presidential contender in 2016.
Paul -- who's got an ACU lifetime score of 92 per cent -- reaffirmed his post as the party's leading voice on budgetary issues and priorities this week, unveiling his third House Budget, which once again calls for a major overhaul of Medicare and Social Security.
Al Cardenas, ACU Chairman, said in a statement, 'from the day he was elected, Chairman Ryan has been a strong voice in Congress for pro-growth, free-market economic policies and has always been a CPAC favourite.'
Keeping with 'the next generation' theme of the conference, this state representative is one of many younger speakers scheduled. After Marco Rubio headed to the U.S. Senate, the 33-year old picked up where he left off, taking over the helm of the Florida House of Representatives.
Since then, Weatherford has scored a 100 per cent legislative rating from the American Conservative Union, who called him a 'Conservative All Star.' And he recently made headlines for criticising Florida's Republican Governor Rick Scott over his decision to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and doubled down even after it was revealed his family has benefited from the program, according to The Tampa Bay Times.
The 37-year old daughter of Haitian immigrants, Love lost a tight race for Congress last year. Had she won, she would have been the first black Republican women ever elected to Congress, according to The Washington Post.
Despite her loss, Love is still considered a rising star in the Republican Party, which suffers from a shortage of young, non-white, female leaders.
A successful businessman -- he founded a solar-power company when he was only 19 -- Linares took a break from business to volunteer in D.C. with Sen. Marco Rubio, gaining hands-on experience in politics. Upon his return to Connecticut, he won a tight race for state senate, according to MSNBC.
Now, at only 24-years old, Art Linares is one of the youngest members of the Connecticut state legislature, and has already proven himself to be one to watch in conservative circles.
Along with his wife and fellow conservative activist Rachel Campos-Duffy, this relative newcomer to GOP politics will host a 'Real World' discussion of current events in an effort to win over younger conservatives at this year's CPAC.
The panel's name is an homage to Duffy's beginnings on the MTV show 'The Real World,' where he and his wife first met. Duffy eventually went on to become District Attorney for Ashland County, Wisc., and was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010 with the backing of former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Erick Erickson, the founder of popular conservative blog, Red State.
Cruz will be the closing keynote at CPAC, joining a line of past speakers in that position that included Allen West, Glenn Beck, and Sarah Palin.
The freshman senator has already made a big name for himself, taking hard-line stances on issues that conservatives admire and liberals loathe. Those include an attack on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to defence secretary -- which some said was 'over the line' -- as well as standing with Rand Paul during his recent filibuster.
'In just a few months, Ted Cruz has become a strong, independent conservative voice in the Senate,' ACU Chairman Al Cardenas said in a press release.
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