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March 6th, 2009

CPAC Marks the Beginning of the 2012 Presidential Contest

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Written by: Craig Robinson
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sanford-markEvery four years, Iowans are entrusted with the task of winnowing the field of presidential candidates. This process usually begins with the run up to the Ames Straw Poll. I think Iowans are fortunate to get the opportunity to get to know so many different candidates.

In the 2008 caucuses, Iowa Democrats were able to really get to know Senator Joe Biden. Biden didn’t do so well on caucus night, but a lot of Iowans got to know that man who is now our Vice President. Most other states don’t offer their activists the same opportunities.

Last year, when I attended the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the caucuses were a month behind us. We had been inundated with presidential candidates for over a year, and hearing another stump speech wasn’t something I was looking forward to.

While that was true in regards to John McCain’s speech at last year’s CPAC, Mitt Romney shocked everyone at the conference when he announced that he was withdrawing from the race. Later in the conference, Mike Huckabee delivered an incredible speech.

This year, things were different at CPAC. It’s been a while since the presidential candidates have been around Iowa, and after the 2008 elections, I was anxious to see a glimpse of the future. CPAC didn’t disappoint.

Of all the potential 2012 candidates who spoke at the conference, it was South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford who really stood out to me. Sanford, who I had never heard speak, didn’t give a speech full of right-wing rhetoric. Instead, he spoke about how just one person can make a huge difference in the direction of our country.

The candidates I was most curious to see this year were Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee. A lot of people expect to see a rematch in 2012 between the two. Romney didn’t disappoint. I thought he sounded the most like a presidential candidate of anyone I saw at the conference. Romney’s speech was loaded with specifics about reforming entitlements.

Huckabee was introduced by his daughter Sarah. She shared a story from her childhood which conveyed how close she is to her father. Huckabee’s speech got off to a tough start as the funny story he told was maybe a little long and out of place for a CPAC crowd. Huckabee spoke about the Congressional Recovery Action Plan (C.R.A.P) which is his name for the bailout.

I always get the feeling that Huckabee doesn’t feel comfortable at CPAC. It might have to do with David Keene, the head of the American Conservative Union which puts on CPAC, being a loud and vocal Romney supporter.

The former presidential candidate that surprised me the most was Dr. Ron Paul. As always, he had a passionate crowd encouraging him. Paul’s supporters and his Campaign for Liberty organization were well represented at CPAC.

The interesting thing about this year’s CPAC was that, even though it had a fantastic lineup of speakers, people like Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and Sarah Palin were not even there. While we tend to start the conversation about the 2012 Iowa Caucuses with the candidates who ran in 2008, I think we are going to see a lot of new faces around Iowa in the coming years.

There is a lot of time between now and when the various candidates start staffing up in Iowa, but the positioning phase of the race is well underway.

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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