"I was a local, and saw this on the internet, and just decided it would be a good idea to come," said one Baton Rouge resident, who had assembled a posse of similarly middle-aged friends to bask in the pure Republicanness of it all. He's an insurance adjuster.
"The one thing I found interesting — was that he was in favor of doing something like social security, which George Bush ran on," said another Baton Rouge resident, who was pretty thrilled to take in an afternoon session featuring Newt Gingrich.
Gingrich was the headliner for Thursday evening's speaker lineup, but also held several town hall style events with conference participants. There, he plugged his American Solutions tax plan, and bandied about like a bonafide southern boy.
"When you speak from the heart, you don't need a teleprompter," he began, and then began oozing praise for Bobby Jindal and Haley Barbour. He then launched into serious talk about Obama's "socialist machine," and why the GOP was sitting pretty. Saying Republicans were "at an unusual moment in American history," Newt was Presidentially-optimistic about chances in 2010, and of course, 2012.
"The Republican Party was founded on freedom, not serfdom. The Republican party was founded on the work ethic, not the redistribution ethic," he said. Saying America was "at an unusual moment in American history," he emphasized Republican involvement on the local level. But he was rather excitable about national politics, as well.
"When" — not if — "we win control of the Senate this year, stage one of the end of Obamanism is a new Republican Congress in January that simply refuses to fund any of Obama's proposals," he said.
"This is a fundamental fight over the core definition of America, and is going to require us to talk in a very different language about politics," he continued. "I think its going to make us talk about the culture, rather than just the politics... are we endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights? Or does government define who we are?"
Other speakers on Thursday evening included Liz Cheney and J.C. Watts. Sarah Palin, Bobby Jindal, and Michael Steele are slated to take the stage before the event's close on Saturday night.