Kessler: Burgeoning CPAC to Move to Bigger Quarters

Monday, 20 Feb 2012 02:12 PM

By Ronald Kessler

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Ronald Kessler reporting from Washington, D.C. — The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) plans to move its burgeoning annual event to bigger quarters.

CPAC, which now takes place at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, will meet next year at the Gaylord National Resort Hotel and Convention Center at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, Md. The Gaylord bills itself as the largest hotel and convention center on the East Coast. Its main meeting room is three times larger than the Wardman Park’s.

In addition, the Gaylord has more meeting rooms, so more panel discussions can be scheduled, and it has plenty of parking. The Wardman Park accommodated parking only for overnight guests and directed others to parking lots at the National Zoo.

The Gaylord, with 20,000 rooms, is on the banks of the Potomac River. It’s a 20-minute drive from the Capitol and from Reagan National Airport. While not near a subway, the hotel will provide frequent free shuttle buses to and from Union Station near the Capitol and to and from the Old Post Office building in downtown Washington.

CPAC had a record 11,000 participants this year and was covered by 2,000 members of the press. There were also about 100 protesters. On the second day of the conference, police quickly removed Occupy D.C., union, and progressive group protesters wearing “We are the 99%” stickers over their mouths. Carrying tents, giant inflatables, and banners, the group had swarmed the hotel entrance around noon.

Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which runs CPAC, says he was pleased with the response of police and security personnel, as well as the enthusiasm CPAC generated.

“Some 55 percent of the paid registrants at CPAC were under age 25,” Cardenas tells Newsmax. “You could see the enthusiasm of the young folks there, and more importantly, you could see the future of the conservative movement right before your very eyes.”

Cardenas says more than 200 sponsors had exhibit booths at the convention.

“We ran out of exhibition space, even though we added to the exhibition space that we had,” Cardenas says.

Cardenas points out that Mitt Romney won the CPAC straw poll, with 38 percent of the vote, followed by Rick Santorum with 31 percent. Newt Gingrich was third with 15 percent, and Rep. Ron Paul was fourth with 12 percent.

“There are always complaints by those who don’t win about the straw poll,” Cardenas says. “But the goal is to get everyone excited and involved. It’s not a scientific poll, and usually the side that is most organized wins.”

At the same time, Cardenas says, a national poll that The Washington Times conducted of self-identified conservatives also placed Romney in the lead. In the national survey, Romney barely topped Santorum, 27 percent to 25 percent. Gingrich came in third at 20 percent, while Paul trailed again at 8 percent.

Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Read more reports from Ronald Kessler — Click Here Now.

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