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Guest blogger John Phillips at CPAC on Michele Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Sarah Palin and Donald

February 11, 2011 |  6:06 am

Caricatures of prominent Democrats at CPAC convention in Washington 2-10-11

As a special pre-Valentines treat, The Ticket invited popular Los Angeles talk-show host John Phillips to guest-blog on his impressions of the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington this week.

That's an annual gathering with speakers who want to be seen as conservatives and often as possible presidential candidates, at least in their own eyes. The convention is available live online here.

Here's Phillips' first report, hopefully not his last:

When you put G. Gordon Liddy, conservative activists and free booze in one Washington hotel, you either have trouble brewing at the Watergate or a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference.  Since Richard Nixon is long gone, we can confirm that CPAC has set up shop in the nation's capital.

The Marriott Wardman Park Hotel is where all the action is late this week. if you're planning on stopping by, here's a word of advice: make sure the cab driver takes....

... you to the right hotel. The National Abortion Rights Action League is having its yearly blowout right next door at the Omni. California's newly elected Democratic Attorney General Kamala Harris is headlining the ballroom. No word who's working the lounge.

All of the GOP heavy hitters are at the annual CPAC meeting here, with the notable exception of crowd favorite and Republican clean up hitter Sarah Palin.  That may sound as if the gathering may be like The Jackson 5 without Michael. But the former Alaska governor is still talked about so often, it's as if she is here.former senator Rick Santorum 2-10-11

The former guv says she has a previous engagement that's keeping her away from CPAC, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum landed himself in hot water by suggesting in an online radio interview with S.E. Cupp that Palin is skipping the conference to pad her wallet.

No need to quote Sarah Palin's response in full, but let's just say the words “knuckle-dragging Neanderthal” made an appearance.  

I interviewed Santorum for my KABC AM 790 radio show right after his address to CPAC and asked him about his headline-grabbing back and forth with Sarah Palin.

After he gave me an "Oh jeez, not you too" stare, Santorum accused the website Politico of putting words in his mouth.  He also said that he's talked to Palin "through people" to clear the air and everything is now peachy. 

On a positive note, the two pols still have one notable agreement. They both think the mainstream media is out to get them.  After the interview, Santorum stormed off. I guess I'll have to say I'm sorry for bringing the issue up "through people'" tomorrow.

Thankfully you can't be in a bad mood too long at this meeting. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann invited all 11,000 attendees at CPAC to an open bar cocktail party in her 8th floor hotel suite. From this point forward I'll never be able to say this politician never gave me anything. Let's just hope it's not a hangover.

Finally, the two big surprises of the first evening both involved Donald Trump. The only thing more shocking than Donald saying he's thinking about running for president, was how warmly he was received by the crowd –- until the jeers after he called Rep. Ron Paul unelectable to the White House. 

In retrospect, "the Donald's" popularity shouldn't have been so surprising; there were a lot of people in the audience who could relate to Mr. Trump -- not as billionaires, but as guys with comb-overs.

Can't wait to see who else declares their surprise candidacy today. Richard Branson? Snooki? And more importantly, who offers to buy drinks.

-- John Phillips


Strangely enough, a man named John Phillips hosts “The John Phillips Show” on Talk Radio 790 KABC in Los Angeles, which can be heard weeknights from 6 to 10 p.m. Pacific.  Outside Southern California, his show is available live online at  Also follow Phillips on Twitter  @JohnnyDontLike

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Photo: Kevin Lamarque / Reuters; Mark Wilson / Getty Images (Santorum).