Both Mike and I had to sit out CPAC today because we were wrapping up print pieces. But I'll happily outsource that assignment to Time's Michael Scherer, who turned in this great dispatch about McCain's reception there. Here's a taste:
The address to the conservative conference was key to McCain's effort, especially since he shunned the gathering a year ago, apparently fearful of receiving a less welcoming reception than his arch-rival Mitt Romney. But on Thursday, two days after his disappointing showing on Super Tuesday, Romney returned to CPAC to bow out of the presidential race, clearing the way for McCain to begin a sort of dating ritual with the movement he has never followed step for step. He faces an uphill battle, but it is one he can overcome.
"I am mortified by what is happening right now," muttered Daniel Lipian, 24, the chairman of the Ohio College Republicans, and one of the dozens of young people who had booed throughout McCain's speech. "I respectfully disagree with jumping on the bandwagon of someone who has a consistent record of going against the grain of our party." But Lipian also knew that his boos were no match for a Republican Party that has been trained for decades to hate Democrats, not their own, and put aside their differences to come together for the good of the party. In the conference's exhibit hall, one could find "Don't Tax Me Bro" wristbands, an unending array of unflattering Hillary Clinton pictures, and "Chappaquidick Swim Club" t-shirts, but no garb that targeted a fellow Republican.
By the end of the day, even the Club For Growth, a conservative group that was essentially founded to destroy insufficiently orthodox Republicans, had released a statement announcing it could work with McCain. "Senator McCain deserves some credit for making a conscious effort to reach out to conservatives at CPAC today," wrote Pat Toomey, the group's president.