Presidential Hopefuls Geek Out At GOP Conference

Jun 19, 2011
Originally published on August 24, 2011 11:54 am
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JACKI LYDEN, Host:

As NPR's Ina Jaffe reports, the RightOnline conference was all about new media, but the candidates gave good old fashioned stump speeches.

INA JAFFE: And Jon Fleischman, who blogs at the FlashReport, had this question:

JON FLEISCHMAN: Where are they other candidates? They need to be here. They're not here. But we'll catch up to them.

MICHELE BACHMANN: Thank you for coming to our state.

JAFFE: Michele Bachmann provided enough entertainment for two candidates. She spoke for 40 minutes and hit all the right notes for this audience, including plenty of Obama-bashing.

BACHMANN: Make no mistake about it, Barak Obama will be a one-term president.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JAFFE: Bachmann avoided discussing her positions on social issues, instead focusing on sure-fire conservative crowd pleasers. For instance, she reminded the audience that she was the first member of Congress to propose legislation repealing the health care overhaul.

BACHMANN: Its 41 words long and it is the full scale repeal of ObamaCare. And I promise you today, that as president of the United States, I will not rest until we repeal ObamaCare.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

JAFFE: Repealing the healthcare law also played a part in Tim Pawlenty's speech.

TIM PAWLENTY: If we're going to have a charge, a political charge against Barack Obama about health care reform, we better do it with somebody who's not a co-conspirator in the charge.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

JAFFE: Pawlenty played it casual, wearing a blazer, polo shirt and jeans, moving around the stage and speaking without notes. He presented himself as an experienced executive, who'd managed to push through conservative policies in a mostly liberal state. And he said he was ready to tell the hard truths to every special interest group in the nation.

PAWLENTY: And that's why we got to go to places like Florida and tell seniors and young people what it's really going to take to fix Social Security. We have to go to Wall Street and tell the bankers and financiers and the money changers, they got to get their snout out of the government trough 'cause it's in as deep as everybody else's.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE AND CHEERING)

JAFFE: In contrast to Pawlenty's experience, business executive Herman Cain said he'd never held public office and that was just fine.

HERMAN CAIN: In all the audiences I've been talking to, I get a big amen when I tell them that I haven't held public office.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

JAFFE: As to the charge he doesn't know how Washington works, he said.

CAIN: Yes, I do. It doesn't.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

JAFFE: So no need to figure it out, said Cain.

CAIN: As a president of the people, by the people and for the people, my job would be to change Washington, D.C., not learn how it works.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

JAFFE: There was no clear favorite for the day. Not even within a single family, like the Willoughbys from Madison, Wisconsin. Tricia, one of three daughters, had this review.

TRICIA WILLOUGHBY: My favorite speaker was probably Michele Bachmann. I thought she did the best job speaking. Policy-wise, I thought Pawlenty did the best. And Herman Cain just kind of shouted down Obama the whole time, so that was kind of disappointing.

JAFFE: Her two sisters also liked Pawlenty best.

BRET WILLOUGHBY: I'm Brad and we are a house divided.

JAFFE: Ina Jaffe, NPR News, Minneapolis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.