Looking Back At CPAC 2013 And To The Agenda Going Forward The Conservative Political Action Conference convened March 14-16, to assess the future of the conservative movement and determine how to advance their agenda. Political Junkie Ken Rudin discusses how conservatives will move forward with Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Looking Back At CPAC 2013 And To The Agenda Going Forward

March 20 Junkie segment on TOTN

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The Conservative Political Action Conference convened March 14-16, to assess the future of the conservative movement and determine how to advance their agenda. Political Junkie Ken Rudin discusses how conservatives will move forward with Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union.


This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan, in Washington. A double-switch on gay marriage, Sanford back in the South Carolina sun, and you think Reince Priebus has been listening to the show? It's Wednesday and time for a...

REINCE PRIEBUS: Stuffy old men.

CONAN: ...edition of the Political Junkie.


PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: There you go again.

VICE PRESIDENT WALTER MONDALE: When I hear your new ideas, I'm reminded of that ad: Where's the beef?

SENATOR BARRY GOLDWATER: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

SENATOR LLOYD BENTSEN: Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.

PRESIDENT RICHARD NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore.

SARAH PALIN: Lipstick.


PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: But I'm the decider.


CONAN: Every Wednesday, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us to review the week in politics. Former Governor Mark Sanford faces a Republican runoff. Celebrity sister Elizabeth Colbert Busch gets a Democratic nod in South Carolina. A week ahead of the Supreme Court arguments, a prominent Republican and an even more prominent Democrat endorse gay marriage. The assault weapons ban dies in the Senate. Rand Paul dives into the immigration debate, but don't call it a path to citizenship.

In a few minutes, we'll focus on CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, and the GOP's self-administered autopsy. Later in the program, we want to hear from those of you who served in Iraq. Does anything you've seen and read in the 10-year retrospectives this past week reflect your experience of the war? Give us - email us now: talk@npr.org.

But first, Political Junkie Ken Rudin joins us, as usual, here in Studio 3A. And we begin, as usual - is that white smoke coming out of the Vatican, Ken?

KEN RUDIN, BYLINE: You mean the fact that we did not have a trivia winner from last week.

CONAN: We did not.

RUDIN: Yeah, some...

CONAN: Yeah, the trivia winner has now been announced.

RUDIN: It was a pope-ponement...

CONAN: Pope-ponement.

RUDIN: Pope-ponement, exactly. Well, of course, last week's trivia question was talking about Jeb Bush and the possibility that he may run for president in 2016. Of course, I don't know if all the people know this, but he's a son of a former president.

CONAN: Really?

RUDIN: So - yes. So the question was: Who was the last president who had a child who ran for statewide office?

CONAN: And the answer was?

RUDIN: The answer was Ronald Reagan, whose daughter Maureen Reagan ran for the Senate nomination, California, 1982.

CONAN: And we had a - ding, ding, ding - winner.

RUDIN: Apparently so.

CONAN: Joel Wiener(ph) of San Carlos, California, via email. So he actually got in before the pope-ponement.

RUDIN: So he's this week's wiener. Yeah, sorry.


CONAN: Luis Tiant: It's great to be with a winner.

RUDIN: OK. Well, anyway, we do have a trivia question this week, and you mentioned Elizabeth Colbert Busch. Of course, yesterday was a special primary election in South Carolina's First Congressional District. We don't know who the Republican nominee is going to be. Mark Sanford advances to a runoff in April with - we don't know who the person will be yet.

But we do know that Colbert Busch will be the Democratic nominee. Of course, she'll be an underdog in the May general election, but, of course, we're talking about women running for congressional offices in the South. And thus the question is...

CONAN: Deh - about time.

RUDIN: Yes. The show is - are we off the air yet? Which woman represented a Southern state in Congress longer than anyone else in history?

CONAN: And if you think you know the answer to this week's trivia question - which woman has represented a Southern state in Congress longer than anyone else in history - give us a call: 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. The winner, of course, gets a free Political Junkie T-shirt and the fabulous no-prize Political Junkie button.

So, in any case, where we can, we begin with actual votes. As mentioned, Mark Sanford faces a runoff - against whom?

RUDIN: Well, we don't know that yet. Of course, there were 16 Republicans who ran in the primary yesterday, and Mark Sanford got 37 percent. And, of course, if you don't get 50 percent, you advance to a runoff. And the two candidates who are fighting for second place is one guy's name - by the name of Curtis Bostic, who's a former local councilman, who's very popular with Evangelical voters.

And Larry Grooms, who's a state senator, who's finishing in third place shortly - closely behind Bostic. He's been in the state Senate for 16 years. But either one, either one - first of all, the point is there may have to be a recount between the two of them, and while this is going on, you still have a runoff in just two weeks, and Mark Sanford - with his notoriety, of course, but tons of money and tons of recognition - having held that seat in the Congress in the late 1990s.

So Mark Sanford certainly goes into that runoff as the favorite, the April 2nd runoff, and then these - the May 7th general election against Elizabeth Colbert Busch.

CONAN: And this has to represent some sort of vindication for Mark Sanford after, well, that terrible mess.

RUDIN: Well, yeah. I mean, you can make the case that that is true. I mean, of course, given the fact that he is the most popular, most well-known and had the most money, he should have finished first, and he, you know, accepted that. But the key has always been the runoff. If there's an anti-Sanford feeling in the district, resentment of what he did, you know, in his personal life, we'll see the results of that in the runoff.

CONAN: And if he gets the nomination, I think there'll be - well, he'll be highly favored to win.

RUDIN: Right, no...

CONAN: Perhaps even tantamount.

RUDIN: Right, exactly. No Democrat has won this seat since 1978. And, of course, the district has been made more Republican since then. But the Democrats came close in 2006 and 2008.

CONAN: We should mention there are still a couple of other outstanding congressional seats to be decided.

RUDIN: I wouldn't call them outstanding, but, I mean, they're pretty good. Yeah, but anyway, the one - with the - Illinois Second Congressional District, that'll be decided on May - April 9th...

CONAN: Speaking of tantamount.

RUDIN: ...right, with Jesse Jackson Jr.'s former seat. And, of course, in Missouri Eighth District - that's the one that Jo Ann Emerson, the Republican, has given up. There's a special election on June 4th. And, of course, we also have the Massachusetts Senate race, the one that - to fill Ted - John Kerry's seat...

CONAN: John Kerry's seat.

RUDIN: Right, exactly. There's an April 30th primary and a June 25th general election.

CONAN: In the meantime, the House Ethics Committee is looking into charges against a couple of its members, and may be issuing reprimands.

RUDIN: Well, yes, exactly. The two of them are Rob Andrews, a Democrat of New Jersey. This is about using campaign money for personal use. We've known about that investigation for some time now. But there's a new name to that list, Don Young, the longtime Republican from Alaska. Apparently, he received improper gifts - or at least that's the accusation - improper gifts and did not report them. So the House Ethics Committee has opened up investigations into both men.

CONAN: And there is - now let's go to Capitol Hill itself, and - well, just a moment before we get there. Next week, the Supreme Court hears arguments on the Defense of Marriage Act and on California's Prop. 8. This is, of course - could be the deciding moment in the gay marriage dispute. Just before that, we have, as mentioned, a prominent Republican and an even more prominent Democrat coming out to endorse gay marriage.

RUDIN: Well, the Republican, of course, is Rob Portman. He announced last - I think Friday that he's known for the last two years that his son, his 21-year-old son is gay. And he had been a longtime opponent of the Defense of Marriage Act and same-sex marriage. Rob Portman was a sponsor of DOMA back in 1996 when it was passed overwhelming by Democrats and Republicans and signed by a Democratic president.

Anyway, Rob Portman has switched his views...

CONAN: And made no mention of his change of heart as he was being considered for vice president.

RUDIN: Well, the - Beth Myers, the VP vetter for Romney, seemed to say that they knew about this, and that this was not a consideration. But, of course, as you say, the big news is Hillary Clinton announcing the other day to - in a video by the Human Rights Coalition...


RUDIN: ...HRC - which, of course, is the same as her initials.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The HRC's full name is the Human Rights Campaign, not Coalition.]

CONAN: Exactly.

RUDIN: And, anyway, you know, everybody made a big deal of this. She's - you know, she's also reversed her previous feeling that a marriage should be between a man and a woman. But she's also late. I mean, President Obama, Vice President Biden...

CONAN: Even her husband.

RUDIN: Even her husband, who...

CONAN: Who signed the DOMA...

RUDIN: Right, who called it unconstitutional. Martin O'Malley, Andrew Cuomo, mentioning other potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidates. So one wonders if what this is about is more about 2016. But whatever it is, she's behind the curve, because other Democrats have already made that change.

CONAN: In the meantime, we have some people on the line who think they know the answer to this week's trivia question, which is: Which is the Southern Democratic woman...

RUDIN: No, not Democratic.

CONAN: Southern woman who has served in - represented his or her district or state in Congress the longest.

RUDIN: I think you've had a lot of that white smoke, Neal.

CONAN: Could have been. 800-989-8255. Email us: talk@npr.org. We'll start with Ted. Ted's with us from Wilmington, Delaware.

TED: Good afternoon, gentlemen. My guess would be Barbara Jordan from Texas.

RUDIN: Barbara Jordan is an interesting guess, but actually, she only served six years in the House from Texas. We all remember her at the convention.

CONAN: We all wish she could have been...

RUDIN: Yes, that's true. But she quit in 1978 after only six years in the House.

TED: Do I get another guess?



CONAN: One to a customer. Let's see if we can go next to...

RUDIN: Unless he's from Chicago.


CONAN: This is Skip, Skip with us from San Antonio.

SKIP: Yes, I'm hoping that congressional seats also include senatorial seats.

CONAN: That is correct.

RUDIN: They do.

SKIP: I would say Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, considering Texas is a Southern state.

RUDIN: Well, I consider it a Southern state, too, and it's a very, very good guess. She did serve in the Senate for 20 years, from 1993 to - almost 20 years, from '93 to 2013, a very close runner-up, but not Kay Bailey Hutchison. Very good guess.

SKIP: All right. Thanks.

CONAN: Thanks, Skip. Let's see if we can go next to Chas(ph), Chas with us from Eugene.

CHAS: Hi, my guess is Cokie's mom, Lindy Boggs.

RUDIN: Well, that's another great guess. She served, Democrat from Louisiana, later was the ambassador to the Vatican.

CONAN: Vatican, speaking of white smoke.

RUDIN: Cokie was in - at the Vatican this week, last week for the pope-ocity(ph). Anyway, Lindy Boggs served from 1973, I think, yes - when her husband, Hale Boggs, was missing - till 1990. She served almost 18 years, so not even as long as Kay Bailey Hutchison. Lindy Boggs is up there in the top five, I think, but not the winner.

CONAN: Thanks very much, Chas.

CHAS: Do I get one-fifth of a T-shirt?


CONAN: You can buy the T-shirt. The button, no. That's priceless.

RUDIN: That's another story completely.

CONAN: Here's an email from - this, Chris O'Connell: I'm going with the woman above who represents Florida, because she's been around a very long time. Thanks, I want a shirt, but I'm probably wrong. He says Ileana Ros-Lehtinen.

RUDIN: Well, unfortunately, he's correct. He's not wrong.

CONAN: Ding, ding, ding.

RUDIN: Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who's currently serving, she was elected in 1989 to succeed the late Claude Pepper. She's been in the House...

CONAN: Who was also in the House for a zillion years.

RUDIN: Exactly, but not a woman, although there were some rumors. But, anyway, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen almost 24 years in the House and counting.

CONAN: So we will reply to you by your email address and send you a free Political Junkie T-shirt and, of course, that priceless Political Junkie no-prize winner button. And thanks very much. We would appreciate a digital picture of yourself wearing both of those items so that we can post those on our wall of shame.

RUDIN: And put the shirt on first, then the button.

CONAN: Then the button.

RUDIN: A lot of people make that mistake, and there's a lot of blood.

CONAN: Honor pinnings, that sort of thing. We - you know, it's a gesture. Ken, as we just have a few seconds left in the schedule, but we should note a new nominee to the Labor Department by President Obama, who could be in for some trouble.

RUDIN: Well, his name is Thomas Perez, and of course he's the civil rights, I guess, chief under President Obama. There are a lot of questions. Republicans are saying that he - there are issues of bias and discrimination cases that he may have come out on one side or the other. Anyway, Republicans are threatening a filibuster - what a shock. But again, he would be the only Latino in the Cabinet, replacing Hilda Solis, who left.

CONAN: Political Junkie Ken Rudin is with us, and will stay with us. After a short break, we'll be back with Al Cardenas, chairman of the American Conservative Union, to talk about the future of the conservative movement. Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION, from NPR News.


ROGER MCGUINN: ...And take over this beautiful land...

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. I'm Neal Conan. It's Wednesday, which means political junkie Ken Rudin is here, and Ken, ScuttleButton winner last week?

RUDIN: Absolutely. The winner is William Tucker of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The answer was three strikes and you're out, three strikes you're out, the baseball expression. The funny part is...

CONAN: Really?

RUDIN: Yes, the first - well, as a Yankee fan there will be no baseball this year. But the first button says one, two, three, four with the initials we don't want your foolish war. And a lot of people said oh, that means two strikes you're out and four strikes you're out. I guess they don't know the expression.

CONAN: The expression, yeah. Anyway...

RUDIN: But William Tucker is the winner.

CONAN: And if you want to see this week, is your column up?

RUDIN: About the Defense of Marriage Act, gay marriage, and the shift in public opinion.

CONAN: So if you want to see the Political Junkie column or the new ScuttleButton puzzle, you can go to npr.org/junkie.

RUDIN: By the way, next week's will be very difficult. I'm warning you now, yes.

CONAN: Ooh, OK, very difficult column next week.

RUDIN: No, no, no, the button.

CONAN: Last week the Conservative Political Action Conference met in Maryland to assess the conservative agenda and rally the right. Florida senator and rising star of the Republican Party, Marco Rubio assured conference attendees that despite November's stinging losses, the movement remains strong.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I'll tell you what the criticism on the left is going to be: That he didn't offer any new ideas. And there's the fallacy of it. We don't need a new idea. There is an idea. The idea is called America. And it still works.

CONAN: Conservatives, we want to hear from you. What's more important, to maintain conservative values or win elections? Give us a call, 800-989-8255. Email us, talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation on our website. That's at npr.org. Click on TALK OF THE NATION.

Al Cardenas is chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts CPAC every year. He's also the former chairman of Florida's Republican Party and joins us now by phone from Tallahassee. Nice to have you with us today.

AL CARDENAS: Great to be with you, Neal, and good to be with Ken, as well. You know, talking - since Ken's on the program, I thought maybe I'd start with a little nostalgia. It was our 40th anniversary. We started in 1974. And actually at a dinner event during the conference, I had the chance to give an acknowledgement certificate to 13 friends who had been there every year since 1974. And that was quite a treat.

And I had a chance also to acknowledge my friend Ed Feulner, who's retiring as president of the Heritage Foundation, a great think tank. And he, too, served and founded that organization 40 years ago. So it was - for those of us who have been around a while, it was a nostalgic CPAC, quite contrast, though, with our theme, and our theme was America's future: the next generation of conservatives.

CONAN: And listening, you could be forgiven for thinking a lot of that future resides in your state, in Florida.

CARDENAS: It does, it does. You know, we do our annual presidential straw poll. This year I couldn't make the list any shorter than 22 names. But we also have a write-in opportunity, and 44 additional names were submitted by the thousands who were there.


CARDENAS: And the interesting thing is that for the first time in our history, over 90 percent of the votes were cast by candidates who were younger than 45 years of age.

CONAN: Interesting, but as you look back at this year's conference, you could come away, a lot of speakers with very disparate points of view, some saying there is nothing wrong with the conservative values, with conservative policies, we may need to catch up with the Democrats on digital marketing and that sort of thing, but we have to stick by what we've stuck by in the past, and that'll be fine.

And others are saying look, we've lost the popular vote five out of the last six times. We could be in really trouble if we don't change some of our fundamental policies on, for example, immigration, or maybe even gay marriage. We're going to have to concede some of those national elections.

CARDENAS: Yeah, the - look for 30 years the conservative movement lived comfortably within the confines of the three legs of the stool that Ronald Reagan provided. You know, we were hawks on foreign policy and social conservatives on traditional values and fiscal conservatives. Fiscal conservatives, of course, remain everyone who joins our tent, and that's the glue that keeps us together.

But undeniably over the last few years there's been a growing libertarian trend in the movement when it comes to social issues and foreign policy, and that was clearly demonstrated at the conference, which is, you know, my goal in that conference is to stimulate intellectual pursuit and debate and conversation. And we have some provocative discussions in the, you know, in the panels that we hosted.

We had panels, for example, too many American wars and talked about that. We had a panel on immigration policy. We had - you know, we had panels on matters which frankly they're social issues, that there's a great deal of debate going on in America today within the confines of the conservative movement.


RUDIN: Al, you mentioned - you talked earlier about how many young people there. I've been to CPAC conferences many, many times, and you're absolutely right, it's very, very young. The people who voted for Ron Paul to win the straw poll in 2010 and 2011 were mostly young people.

But then you come back to the libertarian views, as you just said, with gay marriage. If you talk to young voters, they say look, I'm still conservative, but it's none of the government's business. What you just outlined was the choices and the dilemma that's going on, but how does the conservative movement deal with this? Are so-called family values no longer a staple in conservative politics?

CARDENAS: Well, as you mentioned...

RUDIN: And what is...

CARDENAS: Again, it's somewhat generational. But look, I'm in the same place where President Obama was a year ago. But obviously I think the tone has gotten a little tougher. I mean, I don't remember President Obama being, you know, scoured by the press for those points of view, which seem to be, frankly, the points of view of a majority of Americans.

And I've never seen an issue evolve so rapidly as the issue of gay marriage over the last year. I mean we - I think there's a consensus in our ranks that we are for equality, and if you check the eight or nine boxes involving, you know, loving our fellow men and women, whether they're gay or lesbian or not, and when it comes to discrimination or when it comes to equal rights, everyone's kind of on the same page.

I think we've evolved as a country generally, on all sides of the political spectrum, and are a more fair nation and society as a result of it. But look, some of us, gosh, we grew up under a faith that provided some pretty strict guidelines as to the biblical sense of traditional marriage, and I have a hard time getting off that perch, while at the same time, you know, I acknowledge that younger members, even in my own family, have very little difficulty in evolving towards that point of view.

So, you know, it's a social issue in America. My sense is whenever you have any difficult issue that divides the country, the best way to solve it is through a ballot box. And my sense is that as Senator Marco Rubio espoused at the conference, the fairest way is to go state by state and see how our folks feel about the issue.

CONAN: Al Cardenas is with us, chairman of the American Conservative Union, 800-989-8255. Email talk@npr.org. Conservatives, what's more important, winning or traditional conservative values? Let's start with Joshua(ph), and Joshua's on the line with us from Cleveland.

JOSHUA: Hi, thanks for taking my call. I don't think that we're going to win any elections as conservatives unless we embrace the values of the young conservatives with things like gay marriage. I have many conservative friends, and I'm very fiscally conservative, but I think the establishment of the party and my friends also think the establishment of the party really has not - it's not really looking at reality when they talk about cutting spending, where we should be cutting spending, when we have a bloated military budget that's bigger than the next several countries combined. We should be cutting spending there.

And when we talk about conservative ideas, telling people that they can or can't marry or that they can or can't smoke weed, that seems very invasive and not very conservative to me.

CONAN: Speaking of facing reality, Joshua, I think there are at least 26 states now where it's in the state constitution that marriage is defined as between one man and one woman, measures promulgated by Republicans...

JOSHUA: But overwhelmingly, national polls show that the majority of Americans believe that gay couples should be allowed to marry.

CONAN: Well, Al Cardenas?

CARDENAS: Well, look, in terms of the earlier comments about the state of the party or the movement, you know, it's not as dark as it was in '75 after Watergate, where the losses were massive, and we had I think 31 members in the Senate, lost most...

CONAN: To be fair, Mr. Cardenas, that's a pretty - that's a pretty low bar.

CARDENAS: Right, but now, you know, we've got 30 governors. We have a majority in 27 state legislatures. And we have a majority in the state House and 41 members of the Senate. So we - our problems emanate not so much in matters of the state, where we're doing very well; it's in national elections. And may I suggest that perhaps a more challenging task for the movement has to deal with the demographic changes of America than any one given issue. And clearly, you know, and I stated on a network program Sunday morning, I said, you know, if you want to do a 30-second response, we were selling broccoli to 70 percent of America, and the other side was selling - giving away dessert to 100 percent of America. And, of course, that's a rather - I guess it was intended for levity, but my point being that I thought our message was not forward-looking and optimistic enough, and it was more negative than not. And it only - and we were only successfully addressing a shrinking majority of America. And I think those issues, how do we approach this growing demographic of America is more transcendental in our future than specific issues that we're talking about.

CONAN: Joshua, thanks very much.

JOSHUA: Thank you.


RUDIN: Al, when you were just saying - talking about the demographic changes, you being a Cuban-American, you coming from Florida, you understand that immigration - the issue of immigration is a key point and a sore point for the Republican Party as we saw the results of 2012. When you were watching the Republicans during the debate, the Mitt Romneys, the Rick Perrys talk about self-deportation, were you telling the candidates - were you telling other Republicans that this is suicide, that that we're not going to win elections if we're writing off this tremendous demographic part of the United States?

CARDENAS: The answer is yes. (Chuckling) And, look, they're all friends of mine, but we had a strong disagreement on the subject. But frankly, as quickly as the issue of gay marriage has evolved in the Democratic Party, the issue of immigration has evolved in ours. And I don't have a crystal ball as to how this will turn out in the short term, but if you were asking me where we are today, I feel rather confident that the Senate is going to pass a path to citizenship version with a majority of the Republicans voting for it. And the House is going to pass a version that does not have a path to citizenship but has a guest worker program, a way to legalize the 11 million or so undocumented folks who are here.

So I think we've come a very long way. I think immigration reform is going to happen, hopefully this year. And the immigration panel we hosted was headed by Congressman Raul Labrador, a good conservative leader in the House, who's frankly taken a point position on the debate in the House on immigration reform, and passage of that will go a long ways. I mean it's become a gateway issue for us, and passage of it will give me hope - more hope and inspiration that we can be more competitive.

CONAN: It's Wednesday, Political Junkie day. We're talking about this week's - past week's CPAC conference with Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union. You're listening to TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News. And Melissa(ph) is with us from St. Petersburg.



MELISSA: I've been a Republican for all my life, went to my first Reagan rally when I was - in his first primary when he was running in '76. And I feel like my party has left me behind. I feel that the far-far-right wing of the party is making these decisions in the early primaries and alienating a large part of the electorate for the general election. I think that we need to get back to our core values of finance - fiscal responsibility, a strong defense and, you know, let people live their lives on social issues.

CONAN: That's an interesting point, Melissa. It was echoed in the so-called autopsy issued by Reince Priebus in the Republican National Committee. I want to ask you, Al Cardenas, one of the points they made was we need to reform the primary system, not so many debates and not so many - more primaries and fewer caucuses. That would be a big change. It would make it more difficult for somebody like, oh, just speculating, a Rand Paul to win the nomination.

CARDENAS: Yeah. You know, you can't enter into discussions on an issue like this without understanding that there are two fairly convincing positions on either side. We experience that it's no longer viable, based on the nature of these campaigns, to have a lengthy 20-debate process, a lengthy extended primary process, decide on a formal nomination in late August and be able to be competitive. And so how do you shorten that? And then as you discuss the many alternatives to doing that, you know, the comment comes up and rightfully so, wait a minute, there's, you know, we've had candidates in the past who were not well-financed who rose to prominence as a result of these caucus states and the ability to participate in more debates, and why should we leave out those who are less funded but perhaps may well be that, you know, that one candidate that could make a difference?

RUDIN: Al, just a minute for one quick question. Melissa also mentioned a strong defense, a strong defense, when you think of what happened in CPAC, you think that Rand Paul was the big star. Yet, Rand Paul's views on foreign policy - drones, for example, of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - are not necessarily what the Republican Party foreign policy has been the last couple of years. How do you justify those differences? What do you think of those differences?

CARDENAS: Yeah, Ken. That's very true. It's generational. If you're over 45 years of age, you're more likely to agree with John McCain's and Lindsey Graham's view of foreign policy. If you're under 45, you're more likely to agree to - with Rand Paul's view. And we took - in our straw poll for - we also asked that question. And fully 50 percent of those who answered felt like we've been too aggressive and too active abroad. And that's a, you know, that's, I think, in part because 55 percent of those who voted were under the age of 25.

CONAN: Do you think the - I'm not sure this was directly addressed, but do you think in the last election the Republican Party had to bear the weight of the disastrous decisions in Iraq 10 years ago this week?

CARDENAS: Well, you know, you can - my sense is you could argue what happened in 2012 like death by 1,000 cuts. You know, there are so many reasons. I thought the primary reason, frankly, I stated on election night was we've gotten too white, too old and too male. And it was - the demographics were the number one challenge we were facing, but beyond that, there are still - I think the other side had done a good job of prolonging the blame, while they, you know, there have been full four years in charge. They were - they're pretty good at that. It's interesting that that their actions on foreign policy were far more aggressive than their campaign in 2008 led us to believe.

If you believe 2008's promises, we would have closed Guantanamo by now. We would have been out of Iraq by 2009. But none of those things have happened. But for whatever reason, they're, you know, they were not held accountable for it, and I think the primary reason is that what we offered was no different than what was taking place.

CONAN: Thank you very much, Melissa, for the phone call. And Al Cardenas, thank you very much for your time today. We appreciate it.

CARDENAS: Good to be with you.

CONAN: And, Ken, you'll be back with us next week.

RUDIN: Barring another pope, yes.

CONAN: All right. Laura Lee is the producer of the Political Junkie segment. Coming up, we're going to talk with Iraq vets about that 10-year anniversary and what they've learned. It's TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

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