If you didn’t read Adele Stan’s fine wrap-up report on CPAC 2013 yesterday afternoon, you should check it out. Her fundamental assessment that CPAC now is the Republican Party instead of acting as an external ideological pressure point on the GOP is worth repeating and remembering.

As for the rather striking indicators of new thinking (whether it’s considered libertarian, paleoconservative, or just opportunistic) on foreign policy Adele discussed, it is worth noting that CPAC attendance, particularly for the event-ending Straw Poll, is often dominated by Washington-area college students who lean libertarianish, which is partly why Ron Paul won the presidential part of the Straw Poll in 2010 and 2011 (and why his son won it this year). So while there is no question that the acceptance in Republican circles of Rand Paul as within the pale on foreign policy issues is significant, it’s not clear just yet that the neocons and those generally favoring a permanent U.S. policy of armed belligerence are in eclipse just yet.

This year as always, a big element of MSM coverage of CPAC involves the 300th consecutive assertion that conservatives have wisely decided to get out of the “divisive social issues” business and concentrate on the fiscal issues that MSM folk understand and care about (this is a parallel meme to the one that suggests a Republican Party that has repudiated Todd Akin’s attitude towards rape victims is now fully reformed and rebranded and ready to rock and roll!). That must be why the star of CPAC ’13, Rand Paul, followed up his big speech by introducing a “fetal personhood” bill in the Senate on Friday.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.