Questioning Authority: Jo Jensen on CPAC

Eight Mount Holyoke College Republicans joined thousands of conservatives in journeying to Washington, DC, for CPAC 2007, the American Conservative Union's annual Conservative Political Action Conference. The three-day event, running March 1-3, featured speeches from party leaders, including Vice President Dick Cheney, former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, firebrand Ann Coulter, and others. Questioning Authority spoke to Jo Jensen '07, president of the Student Government Association and head of the College Republicans, about the weekend.

QA: What was the scene like at CPAC?

JJ: This was my fourth year attending the conference, and each year the number of participants has doubled. This year there were 6,000+ conference attendees and the Mount Holyoke College Republicans had a great time meeting other Republicans from across the country. CPAC is jam-packed with amazing speakers, grassroots and leadership training sessions, and fun networking dinners. Several of our students took advantage of the opportunity to see conservative rock stars speak, such as Dinesh D’Souza, Sean Hannity, Elaine Chao '75, and Newt Gingrich. Others participated in trainings to build up their pro-life group here on campus and passed out Hershey’s kisses to the students letting them know that if Congress does not reform Social Security they can “kiss their savings goodbye.”

QA: What was the highlight of the weekend for you?

JJ: Two events stand out in my mind from this past weekend’s conference. I was able to see the last speech of the conference given by Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, and, in my opinion, it was the best speech of the conference. Gingrich talked about reforming Medicare and condemned nasty political attack ads--but what stood out for me was the way he delivered his speech; it was clear, funny, and persuasive. Additionally, it was exciting to get together with the other Massachusetts colleges and have dinner with fellow CRs.

QA: Presidential candidates including Mayor Giuliani and Governor Mitt Romney spoke at the conference. Any insight into who has the inside track to be Republican presidential nominee?

JJ: I found that McCain (who did not speak at the conference) has the most support among College Republican state chairs and that Giuliani has a lot of support among student political activists who work in Washington, DC. Romney’s strongest base is within New England, probably because the college students here have had access to him when he was governor of Massachusetts. Romney did win the straw poll at CPAC. I think that it is way to early to tell who will win the Republican nomination, but I would say that the race is between Giuliani (who is currently the front runner by a large margin) and Romney (who will prove to be the most conservative of the three top candidates).

QA: Ann Coulter hit a nerve nationally when she made a disparaging remark about Democratic presidential contender John Edwards. What's your take on this controversy?

JJ: Most College Republicans are turned off by Ann Coulter’s rhetoric. We all know that she is just trying to sell books and is not interested in constructive dialogue about conservative principles. While her tactics garner a lot of media attention, over time we have found that her lack of civility and tact is not an image that we want to support.

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