In line, Loren Spivack, free market warrior, sold copies of his "Cat in the Hat" parody, The New Democrat, which features Obama as the sly, toothy cat, wearing a Soviet-style cap emblazoned with hammer and sickle. (Glenn Beck plays the anxious fish.) The rhymes are pretty catchy, actually. The book ends with America racing full speed ahead toward government rationing, death panels, &c.
Half an hour later, the line to see Santorum had barely budged.
* * *
At lunch, I plopped down in the hotel lobby next to the Shadrix family, up from Raleigh, N.C., as they tucked into Chipotle burritos. They capture the CPAC demographic pretty well -- white, well-educated, strong Christian values, happy to chat with a perfect stranger. Tom wore a red sweater vest, Wendy a red argyle cardigan, and their eldest, Shawn, a red paisley button-down. Shawn and his father are CPAC veterans, and none too broken up about Ron Paul's no-show. "They're pretty disruptive," said Tom of Paul's supporters. "I don't know how he's doing that as an older gentleman, how he's mesmerizing this group." He also wasn't too keen on Romney breaking "Ronald Reagan's eleventh commandment: 'Don't blast your fellow Republicans.'" Santorum speaks to their traditional values, added Wendy.
Like nearly everyone I chatted with at CPAC, the Shadrixes wanted to know which way The Atlantic leans: left or right? Oddly, this question always cropped up at the end of the interview, as if those I'd spoken with were simply curious how their quotes would be spun in print. Was I an ally -- or a snarky hack from New York? The Atlantic, going back to 1857, to Emerson and Longfellow, has been "the organ of no party or clique," I told them. Inevitably, the conversation would turn to how polarized the media has become, and how democracy suffers as a result, the consensus being: Everyone knows it. No one knows how to fix it. It's getting worse.
Wendy Shadrix stopped me as I stood up to leave. She and Tom chose to home-school Shawn and his sister, Mikayla, and she knew how home-schooling evangelical Christians are depicted in the "liberal" media. She hoped I won't caricature her, she said. So here are the facts: Shawn and Mikayla have read Shakespeare and The Voyage of the Beagle under their mom's tutelage. They have not read Ayn Rand. They are bright, charming, look-you-in-the-eye-when-making-conversation kind of kids. They have good teeth. If I'd stuck around another five minutes, Shawn probably would have offered me the rest of his burrito. As it was, I was late to see Newt.
* * *
Gingrich, Santorum, and Romney were all on the stump Friday, and their remarks were fairly boilerplate. Santorum jabbed at the frontrunners, saying the GOP needed a candidate it could get fired-up about. Romney declared himself a "severely conservative Republican governor" who "fought hard to prevent Massachusetts from becoming the Las Vegas of gay marriage." Gingrich punted, with a lackluster oration. "Newt is an enthusiastic and committed golfer," his wife, Callista, said by way of introduction. "He gets in and out of more sand traps than anyone I've ever seen." The audience in the cavernous hotel ballroom greeted this with...crickets. The press pen above the ballroom stifled a giggle. Even the stony-faced Times reporter cracked a smile.