WASHINGTON – Unhappily,they missed all the big speeches. But dozens of believers in conservative ideas attracted hundreds of conventioneers to their causes in the exhibition hall of the Conservative Political Action Conference. Here is a short tour of the exhibit hall and some of those who are taking part in the three-day convention that began Thursday.
Frank Enten,77,of Bethesda,Md.,owner of the Political Campaign Button Co.,got involved in politics in the 1960s. He has buttons going back to Lincoln's time and enjoys his hobby collecting buttons. He sold a button featuring a heart and 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater to a young woman who planned to give it to her boyfriend for Valentine's Day.
“I'm called the button man here in CPAC. I've been to every CPAC there ever was,I guess I've been to at least 30 maybe 40 CPACs.”
He's been photographed with Nancy Reagan and says he's a true conservative. “I tell you the truth,I never make left turns my car,” Enten said.
He plans to vote for the most conservative person in Maryland's primary on Tuesday.
“Obviously we do T-shirts only for the Republican Party,and the conservative people,and they are here. It is good for business,” Naiser said.
A devoted Christian,she said she's “leaning toward McCain because he has the experience we need.”
Among their T-shirt designs: “Osama Bin Nothing” and “War is Hell; Retreat Is Worse.”
Gregg Jackson,39,was selling autographed copies of his book,”Conservative Comebacks to Liberal Lies,” for $20. The co-host of the program “Pundit Review” on Boston's WRKO,said listening to Michael Savage,whose radio show comments have caused controversy,got him interested in politics.
“I found out after listening him for a while him that I'm more conservative than liberal,and then I started to read more.” Jackson said.
He's endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Michael Huckabee,who is scheduled to speak at the convention on Saturday,mostly because of his stands on social issues,including proposed amendments to the Constitution to protect life and marriage,which he called the “two most fundamental issues of our day.”
After the CPAC convention,he said he will be speaking on college campuses and to Republican organizations,where he said he will be “exposing lies and advancing truth.”
Joseph Starrs,director of the Institute on Political Journalism of the Fund for American Studies,has attended CPAC 10 times. He was recruiting both American and international students for internships in Washington to work in journalism or government. He had packets of blue candies and brochures labeled “Live,Learn,Intern” to give to prospects.
He said that this election year is critical. “For conservatives,it is a decision time. Are we going to back McCain,or are we going to decide to break away and do something different,” Starrs said.
Susan Carleson,58,chairman of the American Civil Rights Union,based in Arlington,Va.,said,”I think that is very important that conservatives get together every year and express themselves.”
She sat at a table with two colleagues,brochures about the group and its work ready for convention goers to read.
The legal rights group,which espouses a conservative view of civil rights,is neutral in the presidential race. Carleson said it's important for young people to be involved in the party of low taxes and less government.
“If we do not succeed in maintaining the White House and regaining power of Congress,young people are going to be paying exorbitant taxes and the economy will go down the tubes and we all may loose our freedom,” Carleson said.