The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) descended on Maryland's National Harbor this weekend. From Sarah Palin's prime speaking slot to Rand Paul's straw poll win, here are seven takeaways from the 2013 who's-who event in conservative politics:
3. The Ron-to-Rand Paul succession is underway
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., seems to be getting pretty comfy on his throne as heir to the Paul dynasty. Since former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas - an almost godlike icon of the libertarian movement since his 1988 nomination to the Libertarian ticket for president - announced his retirement from Congress, his son Rand has assured reign over the hands-off government crusade will stay in the family.
Still fresh off his nearly 13-hour filibuster on the House floor against drone strike on U.S. soil - a show that was lauded by Republicans and Democrats alike as a return to regular order - the younger Paul received a hero's welcome at CPAC, not just in the reception to his own speech, but in multiple mentions throughout the conference.
CBS News asked some convention-goers who, of anyone, they would like to see run for president in 2016. The overwhelming answer - among both the college-age demographic that was boon to Paul's fundraising and delegate success in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, as well as older conservatives - was Rand Paul.
The transfer of power from Ron to Rand took yet another step Saturday when Sen. Paul won, however narrowly, the CPAC straw poll, with 25 percent of the vote. Thanks to a particularly dedicated fan base, Ron Paul was almost always a favorite to win straw polls, forever a thorn in the side of conservative gatherings hoping to implement a real litmus test of the candidates voters wanted; at the 2011 Values Voter Summit in Washington, event chair Tony Perkins all but charged Paul's supporters with stuffing the ballot box.
4. Chris Christie will be just fine without a CPAC invitation
One of the biggest "burns" of the 2013 CPAC was event chair Al Cardenas's pass on an invitation to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who keynoted the Republican National Convention last fall and whose candid, no-nonsense approach to virtually all aspects of his leadership has vaulted him to a potential top-tier position in the 2016 presidential primary.
Facing heat from Republicans over the snub, Cardenas argued ahead of the conference that by signing up with the federal government for Medicaid expansion and rallying alongside President Obama for a $60-billion-plus "pork" bill for superstorm Sandy relief, Christie had not "earned his wings." Cardenas acknowledged that Christie had been "a crowd favorite at previous CPACs," and said he hopes the governor "earns an invitation next year."
Christie later brushed off the ordeal, but he has plenty of ralliers in his corner. Being rushed through the halls of the Gaylord Hotel on Thursday, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., told reporters he thought Christie should have made the cut: "I think he should be" at CPAC, Graham said. "It's up to the people to invite him, but I think he's a good voice in the Republican Party. So yeah, I would have liked to have seen him here, I just think that he represents an element of the party."
And, though most attendees who spoke with CBS News said they backed Cardenas' decision, that majority wasn't reflected in the straw poll results Saturday: Christie came in fourth, with 7 percent of the vote, beating out many people who had spoken over the weekend.