In what he repeatedly described as his “first address to the nation,” Rush Limbaugh uncovered the North Star to a wandering Republican Party: Rush Limbaugh. “We need conservative leadership,” he said, moments after defining “conservatism” for the audience. “We can take this country back. All we need is to nominate the right candidate.”Limbaugh was speaking to a packed ballroom at the Omni Shoreman Hotel, the site of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, hosted by the American Conservative Union. His was the final speech at the annual three-day conference, a slot given to Newt Gingrich in 2007.Just who that right candidate is was up for debate at the conference. Despite his inability to survive through February in last spring’s Republican presidential primary, former Gov. Mitt Romney won the CPAC straw poll for the third straight year. He took 20 percent of the vote. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal—despite his panned state-of-the-union response last week—was second in the poll, 6 percentage points behind Romney. Gov. Sarah Palin and Rep. Ron Paul were just behind, tied with 13 percent of the vote. Nine percent of respondents were undecided, up from 5 percent last year and even lower in the two previous years.The same poll found 44 percent of the 1,757 conference-attendees surveyed wished the party had a better field of candidates to choose from. Limbaugh was a clearer winner in a new category: favorite conservative media personality. Limbaugh won handily with 26 percent of the vote. Glenn Beck earned 17 percent of the vote. The results of the poll were announced just before Limbaugh’s introduction, in which Lisa De Pasquale of the ACU described him as her “aphrodisiac.” Less than two hours later, the ACU would present to him the Defender of the Constitution Award.During his speech, Limbaugh went after Republicans who he claimed had forgotten their conservative principles with almost as much intensity as he went after Democrats. He warned of an identity crisis within the Republican Party: “There will be different factions lining up to try to define what conservatism is and beware of those who seek to redefine conservatism as making sure the liberals like us.” “The blueprint for a landslide conservative victory is right there,” he said. “Why in the hell do the so-called smartest people in the room want to chuck it?”He rejected the idea that conservatives need to move away from their core ideas: “There are factions in our movement, folks who have to say we have to grow, we can’t stay stale. There’s nothing stale about freedom and there’s nothing stale about liberty.”“I want the country to survive as we have known it; as we were raised in it,” he said. “Conservatism is what it is and it is forever.”
In what he repeatedly described as his “first address to the nation,” Rush Limbaugh uncovered the North Star to a wandering Republican Party: Rush Limbaugh.