Day 1 at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has concluded and one theme was common across speeches from the various 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls throughout the day. Each candidate spoke of a decisive, and hawkish foreign policy if they were to win the White House in 2016. Typically it has been domestic issues at the forefront but every candidate was certain to touch on international affairs.
Report from The Hill:
Foreign policy is quickly dominating the Conservative Political Action Conference.
A slew of potential presidential candidates demanded a more hawkish global approach on the gathering’s first day on Thursday. Friday’s schedule looks to have an even heavier national security focus.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) called for “A commander-in-chief who will actually stand up and defend the United States of America,” to roars from the crowd.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) said the U.S. needs “a president, a leader who will stand up and say we’ll take the fight to them and not wait until they take the fight to American soil.”
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) said America must fight “a war on the evil that is radical Islamic terrorism.”
The event’s tone was a marked departure from recent years, and a sign of how much international crises and the looming candidacy of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) have changed conservatives’ focus.
The annual gathering has long attracted a much younger, libertarian-leaning audience than the GOP as a whole. That propelled Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and his father, former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), to many CPAC presidential straw poll victories.
But this year feels different.
“It’s the first time since 2004 people are going to force themselves to ask… ‘can I picture you as commander-in-chief?’” said GOP pollster Kellyanne Conway, who is running the straw poll. “That was not the question in 2012, in 2008.”
Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, a fierce hawk who says he’s mulling a presidential run of his own, argued that younger conservatives — and many voters — were thinking again about global threats.
“I’ve been talking about [international threats] perhaps almost alone for a while because the good of the country depends on it,” he said. “When reality does intrude I do think people wake up and think about it.
With the growing threat of radical Islamic terrorism rising around the globe (See: ISIS), there is little surprise that the topic has become more widely discussed since it will be an issue heading into 2016. Much more so than in 2008 and 2012, when foreign policy sat second fiddle to domestic issues, we will see candidates attempt to greatly bolster their knowledge and credentials regarding international affairs and national security.
The question heading into day 2 is whether Rand Paul will follow the herd or strike a different tone.