Why we abandoned Donald Trump (and why you should, too)

Note: this article was originally published in the Eagle in August. In light of current events, it is more relevant than ever. 

By a staggering margin of 76 percent to 24 percent, the members of American University College Republicans (AUCRs) have voted to withhold an endorsement of Donald J. Trump, the Republican nominee for president. In an even more devastating repudiation of the Trump candidacy, 82% of our members voted to campaign for down ballot races to protect the Republican majority in Congress, as opposed to the 18% of survey respondents that desired to use AUCRs resources to campaign for Trump. I believe that’s what President Obama referred to as a “shellacking” after his party got decimated in the 2010 midterms.

I was elected as President of AUCRs at a contentious moment for the Republican Party. Our primary was still in progress, and Trump was fighting a two-front battle to secure the Republican nomination against Senator Ted Cruz and Ohio Governor John Kasich. After having worked for Senator Rubio’s campaign, I was a man without a candidate. After much deliberation, I submitted an absentee ballot for Donald Trump in my home state of New York.

I supported Trump for two major reasons. The first was that I earnestly thought Trump would pivot and act more presidential. I was among the conservatives that thought Trump was capable of pivoting to a more traditional candidate that cared about learning policy and campaigning. Foolish, I know, but you can’t blame me for being optimistic. I was excited at the idea of an outsider going in to fundamentally transform the way Washington operates. I thought he would run a smart campaign championing policy initiatives that would truly make America great again.

Furthermore, I thought Trump would unify the party. Going up against the Clinton machine is a formidable task. When the field cleared in the first week of May, I was ecstatic that we would have a chance to rally around Trump to beat Hillary. I thought he would work hard to unify the party around his candidacy. Since then, Trump has lashed out at countless Republican officials, often for the simple sin of not declaring ultimate fealty to his campaign. I had much higher hopes for someone who had a legacy for being a master negotiator and businessman.

Since Trump secured the nomination in early May, his campaign has been in freefall. Trump has failed to accomplish anything I thought he would do. Trump has continued to insult other Republicans, and has failed to focus on the many controversies surrounding Hillary Clinton. Trump shows absolutely no dedication to any of the qualities that makes a president great, much less any dedication to policies that would actually make America great again. You would be hard-pressed to fill a 3×5 index card with what Trump knows about public policy. And worst of all? By his own admission, he doesn’t care about winning the election. Trump seems more energized in attacking his fellow Republicans than attacking the Democrats and Hillary Clinton. Trump could have been a Kempian figure, advocating for a better path away from the last eight years. I am dismayed to see that he has embraced a campaign strategy akin to a primal scream steeped in blind rage. Trump’s campaign is built on fear instead of hope, and darkness instead of light.

As AUCRs president, I strive to create an inclusive environment for Republicans of all stripes. No matter what kind of Republican you consider yourself, you are welcome in our community. At the end of the day, we always unite around the common principles that make us conservatives. Since clinching the nomination, I have yet to see Donald Trump attempt to create such an environment for my party or our country, or display loyalty to conservative principles.

It is time to demand the RNC replace Donald Trump at the top of the ticket. Trump has not shown the willingness or the talent to beat Hillary Clinton, so it is imperative that RNC Chairman Reince Priebus pressures Trump to withdraw, and replaces him with a candidate with the gravitas to unite the party and win this election. We deserve a fighting chance at winning this election, because Hillary Clinton would be a disaster as President.

I’m glad our members voted to dedicate our time and effort to protecting our Congressional majority. I’m looking forward to rallying our dedicated and talented volunteers to campaign for down-ballot races before Election Day. I’m honored to serve as the President of AUCRs, even during this tumultuous time. I will never apologize for taking the concerns of our members into account in any decision that I’ll make this year.

As a club, we’ve abandoned Donald Trump. Unless he miraculously changes course, you should too.

GOP Debate Grades: Rubio Under Fire, Cruz Kisses Sir Donald’s Ring, and Jeb! Earns His Exclamation Point

December 15 debate.jpg

Without further ado, here are my rankings for both the undercard and the main stage debates:

Main Debate

Donald Trump: B. Coming fresh off an admittedly impressive 41% in the latest national poll from Monmouth University, Trump certainly had a lot at stake tonight. For the most part, this debate will neither be a boon to Trump’s candidacy, nor will it be the silver bullet that finally brings him and his numbers down to Earth. It is worth noting that Trump is starting to look more and more unserious against an increasingly serious primary field. Worst moment: not knowing what the nuclear triad is. Best moment: thoughtful and humble answer about committing to GOP and not running as an independent.

Ben Carson: C. Carson barely has a pulse on his most energetic days, but tonight he seemed especially absent from the dais. Turned in a listless and lackluster performance, but had a few good asides here and there. Carson had the best suit on the stage, but I wasn’t impressed with the tie selection.

Ted Cruz: A-. Another good debate performance from Senator Cruz, whose debate and lawyer chops are shining with full intensity. Cruz is running as a thoroughbred, straight down the line conservative, and outlined his positions with a bold and bellicose speaking style. Cruz pulled a Kasich by talking over the moderators at one point in the middle of the debate, which is why he gets an A-, but all in all he turned in a pretty good performance tonight.

Marco Rubio: A-. Let’s be honest, the deck was stacked against Rubio from the moment he stepped on stage. The media establishment has been gearing up for a Rubio/Cruz showdown this entire week, and CNN obliged by providing as many avenues for the clash to happen as possible. The moderators goaded Cruz and Rubio with pointed questions to attack each other, and there was a substantive and thoughtful debate about NSA surveillance between Cruz and Rubio. Rubio certainly kept composure and looked presidential, but didn’t make a huge splash on stage.*

Jeb Bush: B+. We finally saw some fire from Jeb tonight! With 3% in the polls, a massive war chest and nothing to lose, Jeb finally came alive. Jeb never quite landed a knockout punch on Trump, or any of the opponents, but he will get there if he makes it to the next debate. Jeb is increasingly positioning himself to be the serious, “adult in the room” candidate that is so far lacking from this field. We are seeing Jeb become more and more comfortable with hardball politics to claw his way to the top. Remember, the Bush family is characteristically competitive, and Jeb is no exception.

Carly Fiorina: D. An irrelevant, shrill, non-existent waste of time that always wanted to insert herself into the substantive debates that other candidates were having. Carly never offers anything worthwhile to say. Carly’s an impressive speaker, but she is devoid of substance and has never matched her first two debate performances.

Chris Christie: B+. The “what they’re talking about is irrelevant, but what I’M talking about is important” shtick is getting old really fast. Christie had a decent night, but lacked the breakout moment characteristic of his previous debates. He’s doing well in NH, but will this debate be enough to maintain that momentum?

John Kasich: C-. Wielded his arms around like a karate student and failed to offer even the least memorable statement. Why the hell is this guy still around?

Rand Paul: C-. It was painfully clear by the end of this debate that the only reason that Rand Paul is still around is to be a lap dog for Ted Cruz. It seems as if Rand is on a one-man kamikaze mission to bring down Marco Rubio, and it doesn’t seem to be working. After whining to get the rules changed so he would appear on the main stage, Rand delivered ANOTHER underwhelming performance, apart from his contributions to the NSA debate.

Undercard Debate

Lindsey Graham: A. He will make a great Secretary of Defense.

Mike Huckabee: B

Santorum, Pataki: Wait, you guys are still here?

*Full disclosure: I work for the Rubio campaign. 

GOP Debate Grades: Cruz and Rubio Shine, Jeb! Treads Water, and Rand Finds His Voice

Tuesday’s Fox Business Republican Debate was quite the breath of fresh air. After the monstrous travesty that was the CNBC debate two weeks ago, both of Tuesday’s debates were substantive, interesting, and policy-specific. Without further ado, here are my rankings of each candidate:

Main Debate

Donald Trump: C. According to some some national polls, Donald Trump has dropped an astonishing twelve points since the beginning of September. Nonetheless, he has been the ostensible frontrunner since a few weeks after he entered the race, which is impressive for any candidate. This summer of outsiders seems to be giving way to the autumn of real contenders, as candidates like Cruz and Rubio are making significant headway in the polls. Trump needed to prove that he was a real contender in Tuesday’s debate, and he barely had a presence on this stage. Not a terrible performance, but not one that will buttress his tenuous lead over the rest of the field.

Ben Carson: C. The candidate that has contributed most to the Trump windfall has been Carson, who turned in an adequate debate performance Tuesday. He is not a serious candidate for president, and didn’t even come close to looking like one. But he is still a good man with a keen sense of humor, as evidenced by numerous witty exchanges with the moderators. Carson’s biggest drawback is his ardent commitment to being the most boring man on the stage. Everyone likes Carson, but likability isn’t enough to be a competent commander-in-chief (See: Carter, Jimmy).

Marco Rubio: A. Once again, Senator Marco Rubio steals the night right out from under the other candidates. In a clash with fellow candidate Rand Paul on foreign policy, Rubio had his breakout moment when describing the imperativeness of a strong American presence in the world. Rubio is a clarion voice for a strong national defense, and constantly and articulately advocates for American hegemony around the world. Additionally, Rubio displayed exceptional command of an ideal regulatory structure of a dynamic 21st century economy, and by far looked the most presidential on stage. Rubio is truly a commander-in-chief who can lead the world in this unprecedentedly dangerous time, with gravitas and exceptional leadership. Chalk this performance up as Senator Rubio’s fourth consecutive win!

Ted Cruz: A. Senator Cruz turned in another great performance tonight, as his stellar debate chops are finally on full display. Cruz’s breakout moment came when discussing immigration, an issues that he clearly holds near to his heart. However, Cruz had a Perry-esque moment when detailing the federal agencies he would eliminate, and said that he would cut the Department of Commerce twice. It remains to be seen how that stumble will affect Cruz in the polls but overall, Cruz’s answers were substantive, passionate, and succinct. To paraphrase something I saw while scrolling through Twitter, the Cubans are definitely making it to the ninth inning!

Jeb Bush: B-. At this point, Governor Bush is treading water. Bush turned in a good performance when he desperately needed to turn in an excellent performance. At the last debate, Bush completely ran into a lawnmower when questioning Rubio. It was good for Bush that he avoided such a moment Tuesday, but you can’t acquire a reward without risking something, and Bush played it too safe. Bush needed a breakout moment to cement his position as the number one guy in the establishment lane, but failed to do so. All in all, this was an adequate performance from an adequate candidate.

Carly Fiorina: B-. Fiorina performed adequately at this debate, but we already knew she would. Ever since her breakout performance at the first undercard debate, and a stellar performance at the second debate, it has all been downhill for Fiorina. The unfortunate problem for Fiorina is that she simply cannot capitalize on the anger as well as Trump can. One line that was completely laughable was that she was constantly thinking of ways to grow jobs at HP, when in reality she fired 30,000 people and seemed to relish in firing them. I don’t get her appeal, but I suppose she would be a good vice presidential candidate.

John Kasich: F. Since most of Kasich’s performance consisted of him screaming at the latest inanimate object or ranting against how terrible the GOP is, I have no choice but to give him an F. Kasich is truly the most unlikeable guy that has run for president in recent memory, and his famous cantankerousness was on full display. I’m sick of his sermons, and I’m sick of seeing him on the main stage, and I’m sick of a patronizing, self-righteous liberal Democrat masquerading as a budget-balancing conservative. Chris Christie should have been on that stage instead of this fraud. Bye Felicia!

Rand Paul: B. Anyone that knows me personally knows that I run opposite to Paul on many fronts, most notably in the area of foreign policy and national security. So it might be a surprise to some that I’m going to say something good about Paul here, but I think he turned in a good debate performance Tuesday. I’ve always said that Paul needed to hit the reset button on his campaign in order to limp into Iowa, and it appears that he finally took my advice. Paul had a bigger presence on stage than Trump, and that is certainly saying a lot for both of their respective candidacies. I think we will see a slight bump in the polls for Paul, at least in Iowa, where he might take back some of Cruz’s supporters that were disaffected Ron Paulites.

Undercard Debate

Chris Christie: A. Wow. This was truly a special performance by Christie, who had a Fiorina-esque performance on the undercard stage. It is clear that Christie is one of the most natural politicians running for President, with a raw charisma and a swagger that sets him apart from most of the field. Christie basked in the limelight, and took on petty attacks from his rivals with characteristic confidence and aplomb. If Jeb Bush continues to falter, Christie could easily make his way into the establishment lane, and become a formidable force in New Hampshire. Being on the undercard stage was probably the best thing to happen to Christie’s candidacy.

Mike Huckabee: B.

Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum: F. Just drop out, guys.

Winners: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Fox Business moderators

Losers: JOHN KASICH, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum

A Conservative Replacement: Fixing the Affordable Care Act

obamacare-cartoon-hellerOne of the most hotly debated issues in the American political landscape today centers around the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, colloquially referred to as both the ACA and Obamacare. The ACA, passed by the 111th Congress and signed into law by President Obama in late-March 2010, is the most gargantuan overhauls of the American health-care system since President Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law in 1965. The arguments for and against Obamacare are very much divided along party and ideological lines, with liberals generally supporting the ACA and conservatives feverishly opposing it. The overtly partisan divide that generally accompanies Obamacare created great waves of disagreement in Congress, with the most recent government shutdown engendered by an attempt by House Republicans to defund the act to undermine several of its crucial provisions. With the advent of the first Republican Senate in eight years, the ACA looks like it will be run through the mill once more.

Financial implications are inherent within any sweeping legislation like universal health care. There are two major funding models that are used to varying degrees around the world to pay for universal health care. The ACA is based on a model called compulsory insurance. Compulsory insurance is the equivalent of a government mandate to buy health insurance. This is enforced by legislation in which people can incur fines and penalties for not purchasing health insurance. In Obamacare, people who failed to purchase insurance by May 1st of this year had to pay a tax penalty. One of the only circumstances that this penalty can be avoided is if the income of the applicant is so low that they are not required by law to file for taxes.     Another model of funding for universal health care is called single payer. Single payer health insurance is a system in which the government settles all costs from health insurance, as opposed to health insurance being paid for directly by the insurers. The government gets the money from a fund that US citizens pay into through taxes. The taxes paid in a single payer health care system effectively replace the premiums that were paid for by private insurers. Proponents of a single payer health care system argue that this is a cheaper alternative to privatized health care in that insurers are free from paying for the overhead costs of health insurance companies, therefore paying less through a tax than they would through an insurance premium.

The ACA has come under fierce opposition from many people, mostly conservatives, who typically value personal responsibility over government intervention. A major result of Obamacare is the introduction of new taxes. In order to compensate for the tens of millions of people who have recently been insured, new taxes on high-earners have been introduced. The Affordable Care Act has also increased patient demand. With an increase in the amount of insured Americans, the usage of health benefits has also increased. With the increased usage of health benefits, a shortage of health care professionals, longer waiting lines, and crowded emergency rooms are inevitable. Another effect of Obamacare is that it is an overly complex law that is rife with red tape, regulations, and confusion. A recent poll by the Kaiser Foundation shows that 47% of people view the law unfavorable, while 35% view it in a favorable light. It can be argued that the initial confusion over the ACA has waned, but a majority of people still view the law unfavorably. Some view it as a complicated and unnecessary addition to an already complicated and inefficient health care system, and resent the fact that the government has mandated that they purchase health insurance. Also, insurance premiums have increased as a result of more people having insurance. This puts considerable stress on small business owners who provide health care for their employees, but fail to qualify for the aforementioned tax credits and government subsidies.

There is a solution to the health care issue that plagues this country. It is imperative that we look after the most vulnerable in our society first, and people that lack any kind of health insurance are definitely the most susceptible to massive debts that they simply cannot afford to accrue. The first step is obviously to repeal some key portions of the Affordable Care Act that put undue stress on the lower class, such as the individual mandate. The second step would be to implement a catastrophic health care coverage for every eligible citizen. Doctor visits don’t kill the family budget; unforeseen and gigantic medical problems are bankrupting the lower class and the uninsured. If a medical problem in the family becomes too costly or expensive, government should be there to incur a substantial portion of the costs, or all of the costs after a deductible. Finally, allowing people to buy insurance across state lines would drive down costs as well, making insurance more affordable for all. These simple changes would drastically improve the Affordable Care Act. It is imperative that we make these changes before it is too late.

Huddled Masses: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System

Statue of Liberty at Sunrise

America is a nation of immigrants; most Americans are only a few generations removed from being immigrants themselves. However, a pervasive anti-immigration sentiment seems to dominate American political rhetoric lately. On July 1, 2014, a mob of protesters in Murrieta, California stood in the center of a street to block three buses filled with approximately 140 immigrants. The flag-waving protesters, 300 in number and rabidly chanting, “go back home,” were enough to reroute the fleet. Disturbingly, this xenophobia was directed at legal immigrants. In the wake of President Obama’s executive order on immigration, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Alabama) has taken up the mantle of being the Senate’s leading anti-immigration crusader. In a recent interview detailing his plans to destroy any semblance of a coherent immigration system, Sessions tipped his hand: “One thing that’s accepted almost without debate is that we need more of those workers, and that’s not accurate.” The basic assumption that Sessions and his ilk operate under is patently false: we do need these immigrants, and it is precisely these immigrants that will solidify America’s leadership in the twenty-first century global marketplace.

The centerpiece of immigration reform should be a clear and obtainable path to legal citizenship, unhampered by long lines or bumbling bureaucracy. A separate federal department that solely handles immigration, perhaps titled the Department of Immigration (DOI), should head these efforts. The DOI would manage all aspects of the immigration process, from visas to family immigration to distribution of green cards and other paths to legal status. Centralizing these efforts would drastically pare down the bureaucracy involved with the current distribution of immigration services across several federal departments. The DOI would then be able to dictate an immigration policy that stimulates economic growth. An economically driven immigration system that appeals to work-driven immigrants is essential. The Department of Immigration would employ policy experts and the like to tackle problems facing our current system. One area that the DOI would certainly curtail is the process of reunification. According to current immigration code, families that immigrate here are allowed to reunite with not only their nuclear family members, but extended family as well. While the reunification of nuclear families is important, the endless immigration of extended and non-nuclear family members is a problem. Extended family members do not provide the kind of economic benefit that work-driven immigrants and their families offer. Moreover, this creates a chain effect, wherein a steady stream of family members come to seek citizenship, and clog up the line for more qualified immigrants. Work-driven immigrants should be at the front of the line in a new immigration system.

States should play a large role in enhancing the effectiveness of these comprehensive immigration reforms. People that place complete border security ahead of comprehensive immigration reform are misguided; there will be no green light indicating when the border is completely secured. With the advent of nascent technology, we can control the borders in new ways that do not rely on crocodiles and moats. Ideally, states would be given block grants to secure their borders in ways that make the most sense. An idea that caught on recently is surveillance via unmanned aerial vehicles equipped with cameras and radar. The best combination would be virtual and physical borders in tandem with increased border patrol staffing. Another area in which states should be given flexibility is allocation of welfare and other government entitlements. Even though immigrants are net contributors to major entitlement programs like Medicare, a central tenet of an economically driven immigration system is the assurance that immigrants are growing our economy, not hampering prosperity. As a result, states should be given the ultimate flexibility as to how they would distribute welfare resources to immigrants. Lastly, states should be given the ultimate authority to enforce immigration policies. With most of the burden of enforcement vested in the Department of Homeland Security, states are at a comparative disadvantage when it comes to enforcing immigration policy. Ultimate harmony between the federal government and state and local governments is essential in securing our borders and restoring the rule of law. Empowering the states to have relative autonomy in securing the borders, welfare distribution, and enforcing the rule of law should be a key facet in comprehensive immigration reform.

As a nation, we are a far cry from the days of Ellis Island and an immigration policy that benefits both immigrants and the United States. As mentioned before, America is a nation of immigrants. We are drawn here by the promises of freedom, personal responsibility, individual liberty, and pursuit of the American Dream. Unfortunately, America’s natural gravitation towards compassion is lost in the immigration debate. Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) was right when he spoke about immigration in a 2012 speech. Decrying the treatment of illegal immigration as a strictly law and order issue, Rubio definitely tugged at the heartstrings: “These are real people. These are human beings who have children, and hopes, and dreams. These are people that are doing what virtually any of us would do if our children were hungry, if their countries were dangerous, if they had no hope for their future.” Comprehensive immigration reform is one way that we can honor the core principles that make America the greatest nation on earth. Our policies and our citizens need to welcome immigrants to revitalize America, and to take her in a new direction. Making fundamental and sweeping changes to current immigration legislation will be difficult both politically and structurally, but it must be done to secure future prosperity for America and her citizens. It’s time to honor the Statue of Liberty, and honor the promise of the American Dream. It’s time lift our lamp beside the golden door before it is too late.

Our CPAC Predictions

Ted Cruz

Conservative Conscience columnists Tom Hebert and Andrew Magloughlin ventured to CPAC with the American University Young Americans for Liberty chapter. Before Tom and Andrew recount their CPAC experiences, some general notes must be shared. Among potential Republican presidential candidates, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz drew the largest audiences in descending size, respectively. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush also garnered a large crowd; however, he faced turbulence from an organized libertarian protest. During Bush’s speech, more than one hundred faithful Rand Paul supporters marched out of the CPAC ballroom in rank and file. As the protestors exited the room, cacophonous chants of “U-S-A” and “no more war” erupted from the hallways. Multiple disgruntled GOP faithful directed threats toward Bush during his speech. No other candidate faced visible public disconnects. In this analysis, only relevant candidates are included. If you hoped for an analysis of Sarah Palin, Rick Santorum, or Donald Trump, Andrew and Tom are sorry to disappoint.

Governor Jeb Bush

Tom: Considering the overt hostility of the crowd when Sean Hannity mentioned Bush’s name in his earlier speech, Bush did quite well. The ultimate battle between rigid ideological purity and pragmatic conservatism was on glittering display here. Self-identifying as a “practicing, reform-minded conservative,” Bush stood firm on his record as governor of Florida, and defended his controversial positions on immigration and education with eloquence and facts. Facing scorn from conservatives, Bush is a known Common-Core advocate. More controversial is Bush’s desire to naturalize the existing eleven million illegal immigrants in the United States after securing the border. Bush claimed that if the United States raises its economic growth rate to 4 percent, there would be more than enough jobs for Americans and immigrants to coexist. Bush flexed his muscle on foreign policy when talking about how to defeat ISIS, much like his father and brother before him. Even amid reports of Bush bussing supporters in, and a sizeable walkout by libertarian-leaning Rand Paul supporters, Bush seemed to win over the lion’s share of the crowd.

Grade: B+


Dr. Ben Carson (Johns Hopkins neurosurgeon)

Andrew: The Ben Carson campaign “came out swinging” early Thursday morning with a mass distribution of T-shirts, posters, pins, and collapsible “Run-Ben-Run!” banners. Carson delivered a substantial speech addressing the pressing needs to appeal the Affordable Care Act, support Israel, toughen sanctions on Iran, destroy ISIS, and create American jobs. While Carson isn’t known for his charisma, his passion showed during his speech, and flourished during his meet-and-greet event later that morning. Carson was one of two Republicans to address climate change in a substantive manner. While Carson denounced environmental regulation, he encouraged firms to improve production efficiency. Also, Carson recognized that optimizing the use of natural resources would improve business growth. Carson claimed (roughly, as his meet-and-greet transcript isn’t available): “People think that you can either save the environment or create jobs. It’s not one or the other. Improving efficiency will help business, and we can do so while growing the economy.” While Carson is far from a frontrunner, both of us were impressed. Keep an eye out for Carson as an advisor to Republican medical policies in the future.

Grade: B+


Governor Chris Christie

Tom: I take the contrarian position on Christie’s performance. Most major media outlets reported Christie’s twenty-minute exchange with Laura Ingraham as yet another pitfall in a month-long slide for the New Jersey governor. Conveniently, none of these reporters mentioned the electricity of the crowd when Christie recounted his battles with teacher’s unions, or his firm pro-life stance. Christie is not a relevant candidate because of his treacherous record as New Jersey governor, but most of us like the entertainment value he brings to the table. Considering a crowd who probably disdains him as much as Bush, Christie did pretty well at emphasizing his conservative credentials.

Grade: B


Senator Ted Cruz

Tom: Senator Cruz gave the most galvanizing speech at CPAC by a longshot. Despite the overwhelming presence of Rand Paul supporters in the audience, Cruz managed to keep the crowd on its feet for most of his speech. Cruz’s trademark fire-and-brimstone rhetoric demanded for removing executive power from Washington and returning it to the people. In addition, Cruz emphasized a federalist approach in dealing with gay marriage and marijuana legalization, and vowed to abolish the IRS if he were elected. Along with most other speakers, Cruz promised to “repeal every single letter of Obamacare,” as well as fight ISIS will all our military has to offer. This principled populism combined with a definite vision of leadership won over the hearts and minds of most in the crowd; Cruz is, without question, the best orator the Republican Party has ever seen.

Grade: A


Senator Rand Paul

Andrew: Senator Paul, now a three time CPAC straw poll champion, reveled during his timeslot Friday afternoon. As always, Paul focused on the need to cut government’s influence and establish civil liberties. Included in these liberties is the barring of metadata from the NSA and the right to a fair and speedy trial. Paul, by a large margin, addressed more specific policy solutions than any other candidate, such as his soon-to-be introduced “Read the Bills Act,” which forces congressmen to read all proposed legislation, the largest tax cut in American history, and two constitutional amendments proposing term limits for both federal judges and congressmen and disabling Congress from excluding itself from legislation. Paul then hammered Hilary Clinton for her failures in Libya and demanded her permanent retirement. When Paul proclaimed: “This country needs a new leader,” chants demanding for “President Paul” erupted in the crowd. Most importantly, Paul attempted to abridge his existing gap with the public regarding foreign policy. Instead of avoiding the subject, Paul called for a nimble and powerful military directed by leaders who think before acting. Paul’s distaste for reactionary foreign intervention displayed as he referenced previous failings in the Middle East. Overall, Paul spoke with a compelling sense of urgency. It is yet to be seen whether his foreign policy is still questioned by Republican voters, but if CPAC is indicative of trends, currently, Paul is the clear presidential frontrunner.

Grade: A


Senator Marco Rubio

Tom: Oh, how far he’s fallen. Once a darling among the media as a fresh face among conservatives in 2012, Senator Rubio struggled to fake a hunger for the presidency in his speech. Rubio failed to tout his policies for middle-class growth or his foreign policy credentials, both widely considered to be his strongest characteristics as a candidate. It was disheartening for such a young star in the GOP to fail spectacularly at a pivotal moment in his quest for a campaign. Rubio received a lukewarm response from the crowd at best. Also, it is notable that while Senator Rand Paul delayed his 10:00 AM speech to vote in the Senate, Rubio, as he famously does, skipped voting procedure to speak at CPAC. Rubio is disreputable for his voting absences, as he touts the seventh worst attendance record among active senators. Senator Rubio, if you’re going to deliver a lukewarm speech, at least do your job first!

Grade: F


Governor Scott Walker

Andrew: Displaying his economic success in Wisconsin, Governor Walker appealed to all sects of the CPAC community. As most candidates did, Walker encouraged securing the border with Mexico, growing the United States economy, and defending traditional marriage. A recurring topic in CPAC speeches was the need for “school choice” and teacher performance evaluation. Scott Walker touted his success in Wisconsin against 100,000 teacher union members to which he refused to comply with when implementing school choice policy. Walker then made an abstract comparison of his battles with teacher unions to fighting ISIS overseas. Whether or not the ISIS comparison bothers the reader, Walker’s success with school choice and his stark opposition to Common Core is convincing. Many Republican Presidential hopefuls share his same education opinions, but lack Walker’s experience. In times of vast economic inequality, school choice may be the answer to eliminating inner-city struggles for education. Overall, Walker is a candidate that appeals to both the Republican establishment and the younger Tea-Party movement. Whether or not he chooses to run, Walker will be highly sought out as a running mate.

Grade: A-


Tom: Despite CPAC’s standing as a major event in any GOP presidential hopeful’s campaign, attendees tend to be young libertarian-leaning Tea-Partiers. Consequently, CPAC audiences are not always indicative of the party at large. When looking at each candidate’s position in their respective campaigns, Jeb Bush has greatly surpassed them all. As you read this article, Bush is amassing the best of the best to work for him, and courting Goldman Sachs for financial support. Conservative skeptics of Bush need to look at his record in Florida before writing him off as a moderate; chief among his policy implementations was the first state-wide school choice program in the U.S., in addition to castle doctrine laws and massive tax cuts. Jeb Bush will win the nomination because of his conservative record, moderate appeal, and innumerable donor bases combined with an elite campaign staff. Upstart grassroots candidates like Rand Paul and Ted Cruz will cut their teeth on this election cycle, but should sit out for four (or eight) more years to gather experience in the Senate. Bush’s running mate will be none other than Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, whose skirmishes with the teacher’s unions make him a conservative hero to multitudes in the GOP base.

Prediction: Bush/Walker 2016

Andrew: At the moment, Jeb Bush has a general disconnect with the Republican Party. Although many falsely label Bush as a moderate, the Republicans are skeptical of another Bush oligarch. In 2012, Republicans relentlessly searched for “other-than-Romney” options to place on the presidential ballot. To many Republican faithfuls, Romney was an outdated and already-failed presidential candidate. After sorting through Gingrich, Santorum, Cain, and Perry, the Republicans nominated Romney, and sparingly turned out at the poll booths. Andrew sees Republicans attempting the same strategy with Bush; however, there is a difference between now and 2012. Unlike in 2012, the Republican Party now teems with credentialed presidential candidates. If Paul, Cruz, or Walker runs a swift and sturdy campaign, Bush is vulnerable. At the moment, it is far too early to make substantive predictions for the presidency, especially in the midst of healthy competition. For the moment, Andrew’s prediction flows with the momentum.

Prediction: Paul/Carson 2016