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GOP Presidential Hopefuls Court CPAC Attendees

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GOP Presidential Hopefuls Court CPAC Attendees

GOP Presidential Hopefuls Court CPAC Attendees

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STEVE INSKEEP, Host:

Here's NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea.

DON GONYEA: Two years ago, the Tea Party didn't exist. Last year the movement made something of a splash at CPAC as the new kid on the conservative block. This year, Tea Party energy is front and center. Representative Michele Bachmann gave the opening speech and other Tea Party heroes spoke as well. Brand new Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky gave a shout out to those who made his election possible.

RAND PAUL: I'm not sure if I heard it. Is there anybody here from the Tea Party?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

PAUL: Unidentified Man: Hell no.

PAUL: Will you fight for and help me defend the Constitution?

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

GONYEA: There were long lines at the student registration tables yesterday.

OK: OK. (Unintelligible)

GONYEA: Kevin Seballa is from Stony Brook University in New York State. He's a fiscal conservative.

KEVIN SEBALLA: Like, over the past couple of years, after seeing bailout after bailout, bad spending policy after bad spending policy, one day I just decided, you know what? Enough is enough. So I joined the Tea Party and I started one on campus.

GONYEA: Josh Kunkle is a senior at Manchester College in Indiana. He spoke about that topic - and abortion - and had some advice.

JOSH KUNKLE: The pro-life movement is definitely very appealing to younger evangelical Christians (unintelligible) definitely the whole pushing, like, gay marriage thing, that's more towards older folks. I don't feel like our generation really cares about that at all.

GONYEA: But for all of the focus on the youth, the biggest moment of day one of CPAC came when the organization gave its Defender of the Constitution Award to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. The award was preceded by a surprise: Rumsfeld was introduced by his old friend Dick Cheney. The crowd erupted.

USA: USA, USA!

GONYEA: Cheney, who wears an external heart pump, moved well and looked healthier than he has at some appearances over the past year. He jokingly acknowledged the crowd in typically unsentimental fashion.

DICK CHENEY: All right, sit down and shut up.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

GONYEA: There were loud cheers for both Cheney and Rumsfeld. There was also some heckling by some in the crowd opposed to the war in Iraq and its costs. Still, the applause drowned out the booing. Here's Rumsfeld...

DONALD RUMSFELD: It's good to be here. I have been around so long that I remember a time when CPAC did not exist, when Ronald Reagan was still an actor, when Barry Goldwater was our candidate for president, and we only worried about socialism outside of the United States.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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