Ten hours at CPAC

In spite of practical considerations, I’m fond of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. It’s an expensive indulgence, but I managed a one-day trip this year. Even by my First-in-the-Nation standards, it’s an impressive gathering.

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Never mind the headliners. The best of the presentations are usually to be found in the breakout sessions, and this year was no exception. Marjorie Dannenfelser of the Susan B. Anthony List joined Dr. Charmaine Yoest of Americans United for Life and Darla St. Martin of National Right to Life spoke to a packed room about pro-life victories throughout the country in 2014. As New Hampshire turns ever bluer on the political map (I’m not giving away any secrets here), it’s easy to lose sight of the pro-life political gains elsewhere in other states. Ask North Carolina’s Joni Ernst about that.

Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee
Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee

A lower-profile presentation by Chris Crawford and Laurie Lee of Women Speak Out, an SBA List PAC, was a nuts-and-bolts description of the field effort that went into the winning campaigns last year. They called their session “The Margin of Victory.” No theoretical stuff here. How many canvassers, how many live phone calls, how many face-to-face interactions with pro-life voters did it take to yield victories for pro-life candidates? This was independent PAC with an astonishing ground game, independent of any party. They got results with good hard field work: one-on-one contact with voters.

One thing was clear after hearing from candidates and pro-life activists all day: don’t expect the presidential candidates to lead on the life issues. That’s going to be the voters’ job. Most pro-life or fence-sitter candidates will bring up the life issues only if asked – so be prepared to ask. (Pro-abortion candidates seem to have no trouble being upfront about their beliefs, if you can call it “upfront” when they use euphemisms like “pro-choice.”)

All photos by Ellen Kolb for Leaven for the Loaf