Saturday was the third and final day of CPAC, the annual conservative clambake hosted in Washington by the American Conservative Union. The rhetorical red meat came fast and furious via the speeches of Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter and Ted Cruz, as well as some rare internal soul searching from a few stray Republicans.
Early Saturday afternoon, the nation got to observe several notable state legislators speak, including Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, who used his time in the national spotlight to again brag about how he intends to reject Gov. Rick Scott's call to expand Medicaid coverage in Florida.
"States are being lured, and I would argue coerced, into expanding programs like Medicaid and passing regulations not through federal mandate but with the promise of free money," he said. "They're trying to buy us off, one by one."
As the crowd cheered, he said, "But I am not buying it, Florida will not buy it and America should not buy it."
Nobody turns on a conservative crowd in America more than Sarah Palin, and the former Alaskan governor (for two and a half years) did not disappoint.
Speaking for a full half hour, Palin played with her audience like a professional comedienne. She even got a little racy, remarking about how her husband Todd bought her a gun rack for Christmas.
"He's got the rifle, I've got the rack," she said.
Then she quickly went to another bit, pulling out a Big Gulp to mock New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's crackdown on sugar sodas.
She also employed some Republican on Republican violence (as did others at CPAC), bashing Karl Rove and his super PACS. Rove spent hundreds of millions of dollars in vain against Barack Obama last year, and has alienated some Tea Party types this year by saying that he will attempt to protect against unelectable candidates winning GOP primaries.
Palin's line? "The last thing we need is Washington, D.C., vetting our candidates. The architects can head on back to the great Lone Star State and put their names on some ballot."
Conservative firebrand Ann Coulter took on the GOP establishment for supporting "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, emphasizing that her disdain for Marco Rubio and others fighting for a pathway to citizenship means she's now a single-issue voter on that subject.
Former Democratic Alabama Congressman Artur Davis took on the GOP as well, saying that they missed out in reaching out to working class voters.
"We became the first Republicans since the '30s who didn't talk about middle-class tax relief? The first Republicans in my lifetime who didn't have the self-confidence to talk about how our policies reduce the poverty and lift the poor out of dependency. The first Republicans since World War II who didn't seem to get that in this competitive world, education is part of promoting the common defense. So is it any surprise that we are the first conservatives in the modern era to see the number of conservatives fall?"
Arthur Brooks from the American Enterprise Institute talked about the lack of social mobility in America over the past three decades.
"Some studies show that mobility is higher in France than in the U.S. Something's wrong and we gotta have an answer and too many people think that conservatives don't have an answer to them," he said.
He characterized President Obama's message last year as the rich people have your stuff, and I'm going to get it back.
"It's nonsense Americans don't like it, really. But what was the alternative? The 47 percent comment, the idea that the bottom half are just a bunch of moochers? They don't like that ... we have to do better," Brooks said. "Everybody deserves fairness, and we all demand a system that helps the vulnerable. Everybody believes it's right to help the vulnerable. We've been handing those ideas to the left. They're the fairness guys, who are we? We're the money guys? We say government's too big, regs are too high, taxes are too high. We're fighting against things. They're fighting for people. They're wrong. They're hurting poor people ... yet we're doing exactly what it takes to lose the argument. Do you want to win? Start fighting for people, instead of fighting against things."
Closing out the day and the conference was 41-year-old Cuban-American freshman Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who actually said something that many progressive could find common cause with. Cruz called for the elimination of the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes a controversial provision that could allow the military to indefinitely detain American citizens on suspicions of supporting terrorism
Before Cruz spoke, Kentucky Sen. Rand Pau was named the winner of the CPAC straw poll, barely edging out Rubio, 25-23 percent. Paul's dad Ron was a previous winner as well.