All GOP Candidates Appeared Near Georgetown Last Week

Last weekend, June 23-24, an event occurred just blocks from Georgetown that was a bit of a geographical and ideological jolt really … actually several jolts, to be honest. It was the 14th annual policy and strategy briefing of the Faith and Freedom Coalition — billed as the “2023 Road to Majority” — at the Washington Hilton on Connecticut Avenue.

One jolt was that in the heart of our almost pure-blue Georgetown neighbor, Dupont Circle, all 12 of the pure-red candidates vying to be the Republican nominee for president could be seen commanding the speaker’s podium at the Hilton ballroom — the well-known almost liberal iconic site of the White House Correspondents Association Dinner every spring. And this time, even Donald Trump rode the escalator to the ballroom.

All the top polling candidates to date were there: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence. There were the top emerging Asian Americans candidates, former governor and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and bio-tech billionaire Vivek Ramaswamy. There were African American candidates, Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, former CIA undercover moderate anti-Trump Texan Will Hurd and radio host Larry Elder. There’s the moderate conservative, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Latino, also highlighted three break-out sessions on Latinos at the conference. Also sharing the limelight was former governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and former governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, a top Trump critic.

And, of course, there was former President Donald Trump, who keynoted the Patriot’s Gala dinner Saturday evening with an hour-and-a-half speech.

Aside from his predictable and hyperbolic polemics, Trump called Washington, D.C., “dirty.”

“As I rode to the event from the airport I noticed how dirty the streets were in D.C. Lots of trash,” he said. “When I was president, I would get on the phone and tell them to remove the tents. One leads to two, two lead to ten … When I am elected president again, there will be no tents [in DC].”

Throughout Friday and Saturday, all the candidates were greeted with some enthusiasm, applause and the occasional standing ovation. Only one was booed: Christie when he criticized Trump. And that was a jolt, too.

The cheers and enthusiasm for Trump by conference goers far exceeded their response to every other candidate.

Also walking the halls, up on the platform and talking, talking, talking were GOP fireballs and news anchors Judge Jeanine Pirro and Kari Lake, along with Senators Marsha Blackburn and Joni Ernst — among the many other speakers and attendees.

Break-out sessions included not only a focus on Hispanic issues — attended by an estimated 200 Latinos, including students from Georgetown University — but also on human trafficking, public safety, school choice, media bias against conservatives and, most obviously, abortion and post Roe v. Wade.

Because the other jolt — for many secular and non-religiously-affiliated residents of the area — was that most all of some 1,500 estimated enthusiastic participants and attendees of the event spoke openly and enthusiastically about their Christian faith and their joyous celebration of the ending of Roe v. Wade, the federal law that had made abortion on demand a national right for almost 50 years.

The Faith & Freedom Coalition had been founded by former Christian Right and Reagan advocate Ralph Reed and one of its major goals was to end Roe vs. Wade as unconstitutional.

The ironic thing at the conference was that exactly a year ago, the Supreme Court on June 23, 2022, effectively ended Roe v. Wade by upholding limitations made to the law by the state of Mississippi, throwing access and legality of abortions to every state to decide. As conferees high-fived and cheered their “victory” for which Trump took some personal credit, the streets in front of the Supreme Court were filled with hundreds of protestors from throughout the country during a “Woman’s March” advocating for expanded and, in some cases, unlimited rights to abortion.

Which led to the headlines generated most by the conference. It was contrary to the image that Republican leaders favor a total ban on abortions. The biggest jolt of this “Road to Majority” Faith and Freedom conference could be said to be that almost every one of the presidential nominee candidates supported a federal law be passed by Congress that would give a universal right to abortion up to 15 weeks (some said 12 weeks) of gestation, with some exceptions for medical reasons affecting the survival of the mother.

For other analysts, a final jolt could be the number of Hispanic participants and panels that were at the conference. As one Latino Georgetown University student put it, “We Latinos are natural conservatives, particularly when it comes to traditional family life values.” An engineering grad student told a panel on “Hispanics Reshaping the Americas” that he knew he had doomed his chances to get a university fellowship when the interviewers asked him if he supported “Diversity, Inclusion and Equity.” He answered “No.”



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