Hello my friends, it is I, your recently absent podcast host. I know it’s been a while and I wanted to give y’all an update on what’s been going on.
Due to personal stuff, work stuff, travel stuff and all kinds of other stuff, Alex and I just haven’t been able to get together and crank out a couple hours of swearing about whatever the news of the day is. Trust me, we’re not happy about it. We enjoy recording the episodes and the fact that we haven’t been able to do so in several weeks pleases neither of us.
I wanted to let y’all know that we’re still here, the podcast is still here and we’re going to be recording new episodes soon. In the meantime, I figured I’d give everyone my impressions of the Redstate Gathering in general and the candidates that spoke there in particular. If you’re interested, keep on reading.
Let me start by saying that I had an absolute freaking blast. There were roughly 1,000 people there. And some of them were…very interesting. And good grief can some of those people drink. Imagine 3 straight nights of MoMe style drinking. Yeah. It’s gonna take me some time to recover.
So I owe big thanks to the folks at Redstate. I knew a few of the contributors via twitter and Facebook and when I got there, they completely treated me like I was one of their own. Introduced me to everyone and included me in pretty much everything they did. So a big thank you to Aaron Gardner, Moe Lane, Leon Wolf, Laura Fillault, Caleb Howe, Ben Howe, Brad Jackson, Joe Cunningham, Kimberly Ross and for anyone else from RS that I may have inadvertently forgotten. Whether it was watching panels and speeches, grabbing some food or hanging out after hours in the private room with the free booze, these folks were as gracious and as nice as any I’ve met. Thank you.
I also got to meet and spend at least a little time with some other awesome people. Morgan Williamson of Empower Texans was an absolute blast to hang out with and I’m thrilled to have met her. Kemberlee Kaye from Legal Insurrection. She was as smart and witty as you would expect. If you ever get the chance, introduce yourself to Kristina Ribali of the Foundation for Government Accountability. She’s hard to miss. She’ll be the 6′ blond. And she’s pretty much the life of the party wherever she goes. There are many more and I know I’m forgetting people.
Now, the candidates. We heard from 9 Republican Presidential candidates and I’ll give a quick thought or two on each one and their speech.
Chris Christie – The Gov. was extremely personable. Obviously very comfortable on the stage. Good rapport with the crowd. Spent a lot of time talking up his successes as Gov of NJ and how he did it with a massively Dem state legislature. Very big on pro-life and the idea that if you can win in NJ being openly pro-life, you can win anywhere and everywhere being openly pro-life. I don’t know if he converted any voters, but I’ll bet a lot of people left there liking him personally a bit more than they did when they got there.
Rick Perry – I was a Perry fan 4 years ago. I’ve been leaning Perry this time around. I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed. He got a huge welcome from the crowd and they very much wanted to be vocal on his behalf. And to some extent they were. He got several standing ovations during his speech. Problem is, he’s not a spectacular public speaker. At times he seemed very comfortable, very passionate and spoke well. At other times he seemed uncomfortable, stiff and relied heavily on his notes. He was one of the few speakers that spoke from the podium with notes. What he was saying was fine, and in a perfect world that would probably be enough, but in this world it’s not. I still like Perry, but I’m more dubious of his chances now.
Bobby Jindal – He is always going to be the smartest guy in the room. The man is an actual, literal, genius. And it shows. He was much more comfortable than Perry on stage, though not quite as comfortable as Christie. He was well received by the crowd. He knew his audience and spoke to it. At one point I tweeted that “Jindal is throwing out red meat like he’s hunting lions in Africa.” If he doesn’t get the nomination or the VP slot, he should be a shoe in for a Cabinet position. I’d put him in HHS, which is where he got his start in Louisiana. One of the Redstate folks mentioned putting him at the EPA and letting him clean it up like he did with HHS in Louisiana and I think that’s an outstanding idea.
Carly Fiorina – Crowd loved her. She started out on the right note by having the announcement made that instead of speaking for 25 minutes and then doing 5 minutes of questions like everyone else, she wanted to speak for just about 10 minutes and then spend the rest of the time answering questions. This was my first chance to really see/hear her and I was impressed. I didn’t see her in the “Kids’ Table” debate, but the general feeling at the Gathering was that she cleaned house. She’s another that would be deserving of a Cabinet position at the least. I’m thinking head of the IRS.
Marco Rubio – The last speaker of the day on Friday. He’s young and he looks it. Many folks still harbor a lot of resentment towards him for the Gang of 8 thing. I’m one of them. But I’ll tell you, he was damn impressive. Best of the day on Friday. He’s obviously very intelligent. He’s well spoken. He comes off as very knowledgeable, very well informed, on a broad range of subjects. Fiorina got the biggest crowd reactions of the day, but I thought Rubio gave the best speech. He is undoubtedly someone to watch and very well may be the VP candidate if he comes up short of the nomination.
Mike Huckabee – First candidate of the day on Saturday. Personally, I’m not a fan. At all. But he didn’t do poorly. He stayed away from the heavily religious stuff and stuck to areas where he’s most conservative. If I remember correctly, there were multiple references to the 10th Amendment and returning more power to the states. The reaction from the crowd was good, but surprised. People almost seemed like they were surprised to be in agreement with him so much. I don’t think Huckabee has any real chance, but he didn’t hurt himself with his appearance.
Ted Cruz – O. M. G. This guy was an absolute rockstar at the Gathering. Standing room only crowd. Place was electric. And then he came out on stage. The place exploded from the start. And then he spoke….and he absolutely nailed it. I’ve never seen anything like it. He had the crowd rocking to his beat. He was, far and away, the best speaker there. Everything he did and said was designed to connect him with the crowd. His use of pronouns (“us” “we” “them” “they”), the way he dressed (blazer and slacks instead of suit) and even his actions on stage (when the crowd erupted, he would walk to the front of the stage and clap with them. Mimicking their behavior back to them) was designed to connect him to the crowd. Not including when he entered and left the stage, I counted 6 standing ovations. I’m talking 80%+ of the room on it’s feet. At two different points the crowd was chanting “Cruz! Cruz! Cruz!” And after it was over, he did something no one else did. He went into the crowd. He spent over 30 minutes taking pictures, shaking hands, signing autographs. I spoke to one of his staffers and asked did they expect this kind of performance/response. They knew things would go well, but not that well. Cruz would have won any sort of straw poll. Going. Away.
Jeb Bush – He was the least well received of all the candidates. No standing ovations. His applause lines got applause, but that was about it. He stuck primarily to talking about his time/accomplishments as Governor of Florida. Which was smart. He does, in fact, have a good, Conservative, record from his time as Governor. He got the toughest and most pointed questions. When asked about Common Core, he hedged and danced and dodged. When asked about immigration/amnesty, he answered it head on. He’s in favor of a pathway to legal status (but he says not citizenship) for those that have been here for a certain length of time, no criminal record, etc etc. Folks didn’t care for him, but they were polite about it by and large.
Scott Walker – The final speaker of Saturday and the Gathering. Trademark no coat and sleeves rolled up. I finally got to hear the Kohls’ story in person. He was pretty good. Solid. He wants to be passionate and fiery like Cruz, and to some extent Perry, but he can’t quite pull it off. He also looks even younger in person than he does on tv. But he says all the right things. He’s got a proven track record of success. He came out and almost the first words out of his mouth were that he wanted to talk about just one person…Hillary Clinton. He obviously thinks she will be the Dem nominee and his whole speech was an attack on her and her record. Crowd liked him a lot, but by this point I think everyone was pretty tired and Cruz had blown out most of the energy at lunch time. Walker is hovering around the top of the race and you could see why.
Ok, so now is the time to talk about the thing that happened. About Donald Trump. Yes, he was originally scheduled to speak. Yes, he was disinvited. Let me tell you what really happened, cause I had a front row seat.
First, let’s get something straight. I’ve seen a lot of talk about how many people at the Gathering were angry or left. That Redstate/Erickson screwed people who had come to see Trump speak.
That is all categorically untrue. The event sold out WEEKS before Trump was announced as a speaker. Most people didn’t even know he was going to be there until Thursday night when Erickson mentioned it in his opening remarks. No one came there because of Trump. He was a last minute addition.
That night. So I was in a small, private room with about 12 or 15 of the Redstate folks and some of their friends. Suddenly someone, I think Moe Lane, yelled out something similar to “HOLY SHIT. TRUMP.” He’d seen the news on twitter. We all were on our phones trying to figure out WTAF. Erickson wasn’t there at the time. He came in a bit after 10pm. And he had absolutely no idea. We had to tell him what had happened. After he spent quite a bit of time on the phone with the Trump people, trying to give them every opportunity to explain, clarify, walk back, etc, he made the decision to disinvite Trump. Trump and his people hedged, hemmed, hawed and damn near out right lied (“He didn’t say that” and “No he said something different” are direct quotes). So Erickson, and Erickson alone, made the decision to not have him. He was not given marching orders by Fox or Salem Media or other candidates or any of that crap. Erickson and Erickson alone made the decision. Frankly, honestly, it’s the same decision I would have made in his place.
Believe what you will. I was literally there as it happened. I know for an actual fact what happened that night and very few other people can say that.
I will say, the Redstate folks are damn funny. The jokes were flying. “What’s Trump’s favorite music genre? Ragtime.” “What’s his favorite song? Sunday Bloody Sunday.” “What’s his favorite movie? Crimson Tide.” And so on. We tried desperately to get Erickson to title his post “I disinvited Donald Trump. Period.” But as he said “You’re all drunk and I don’t think it’d be a good idea to listen to you.”
In addition to the candidates, I got to hear quite a few other people speak and it was all excellent. Lori Ziganto from Twitchy, Kristina Ribali, Katie Pavlich, Ed Morrissey, Brent Bozell, Jim DeMint, Tim Scott and Greg Abbott were just a few of the many excellent speakers.
Again, I had an absolute blast. Met some great people and made some new friends. If you get the chance, I absolutely recommend that you go to a Redstate Gathering. It’s not cheap and you’ll likely have to do some traveling, but I think it’s worth it. I certainly don’t regret it for a second and I hope I get the chance to go again.