From Mother Jones:
At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), where a speech by Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday was greeted with chants of “four more years,” John McCain was in enemy territory. Many of the right-wing activists who gathered for the annual event scornfully regard the Arizona senator as a false conservative, one who first opposed President Bush’s tax cuts and who has too often dared to team up with Democrats in Congress to promote legislation that drives conservatives crazy, including campaign finance and immigration reform.
As attendees milled about the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C., waiting for speeches by McCain and Mitt Romney, the enthusiasm for the former Massachusetts governor was evident. He was supposed to be the man of the hour. Young men inflated Mitt Romney thunder sticks. Volunteers handed out hundreds of giant foam mitts (get it?). No one realized that the media was reporting that Romney was planning to announce during his speech his departure from the presidential race and that, like it or not, they were about to be stuck with John McCain.
When conservative talk show host Laura Ingraham introduced Romney, she hurled a barb or two at McCain, and the crowd ate it up. “It’s not enough to say you were a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution,” said Ingraham, referencing one of McCain’s common lines. The real question is, she said, “What have you done for conservatism lately?”
Romney took the stage to a standing ovation and cheers of “We want Mitt!”
And then Romney blindsided his fans. “If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win,” he said, as the crowd grew silent. “And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror.” As it slowly dawned on the committed Mittens that he was dropping out, jeers and shouts of “No!” rose from the audience. Romney smiled sadly and assured them it was true.
A few hours after Romney disappointed CPAC, a triumphant McCain took the stage. He was greeted by cheers and a few boos. Before Romney had made the day’s news by dropping out, McCain, the frontrunner, had planned to come to the conference to start courting the conservative wing of his party—that is, to counter the anti-McCain crusade that has been mounted by Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Laura Ingraham, Michelle Malkin, James Dobson, and other conservative influentials. His mission today was to convince this crowd he is indeed a true conservative. And now, with Romney out, he and the conservatives before him were essentially considering how to make the best of a forced marriage.
The crowd was polite, and only booed loudly when McCain brought up immigration. It helped that McCain repeatedly bashed the Democrats–implicitly making the point that Republicans didn’t have to really like him, they just had to hate the Democrats more.
Will that be Captain Underpants’ new campaign slogan?