In the CPAC Hub, a smorgasbord of think tanks, campus conservative groups, super PACs, self-publishers, start-ups and independent tchotchke vendors stake out rented spaces to peddle their ideological wares, often with a gratis knick-knack to sweeten the deal, and otherwise chat up conference goers taking a break tfrom he speeches and "activist boot camps."
We surveyed the scene on Thursday afternoon, then rated the most eye-grabbing displays on a scale of one to four MAGA hats, with high scores awarded to only the most Trumpiest of Trumpy swag.
'A Covfefe Table Book'
William Clark and Jon Werthen Jr. arrived in National Harbor, on the banks of the Potomac River, primed to make a killing. No giveaways here -- they were hawking a self-published, hard-cover collection of select Trump tweets.
"We decided to put together a collection of our favorite ones and show that (Trump) hasn't really changed since he started tweeting," Clark said. "In fact, in 2009, his fourth tweet ever was a quote about a wall."
The book, titled "The Tweeter of the Free World: a Covfefe Table Book," is available for purchase now -- which cost them here.
'It's little rocket man!'
Not literally, of course. The person in the Kim Jong Un mask, holding the inflatable "rocket," was only drawing attention to Secure America Now, a national security advocacy group.
"An opportunity like CPAC is a great way to first expose ourselves. A lot of people don't fully know who we are," said Kathleen Canfield (not pictured). "Everyone loves the games, building the walls themselves, the Kim Jong Un mask -- yeah, you can build your own wall."
This was an easy one. Politically relevant, utterly tactless, and free of charge. Full marks.
Made in America: Trump inaugural egg ornament
Doug Pyron has been custom-designing ornaments like this one for more than three decades. People usually buy them a bunch at time, to use as stocking stuffers for guests at fundraisers and commemorative gatherings.
"These are all designed and manufactured in the US. Nothing is done overseas," he said.
But how true is his devotion to Trump?
"I've actually done them for the Clinton Foundation," he said. "It's only business!"
Surely a businessman like the President could forgive that -- up to a point.
Losing their edge?
Turning Point USA, the college conservative group, swarmed the tables as their founder-leader, Charlie Kirk, took center stage in the main ballroom for a panel called, "Kim Jong Un-iversity: How college Campuses are Turning into Reeducation Camps."
How does Kirk feel about socialism? In case the shirt wasn't clear, he told moderator Katie Pavlich, "It does suck."
Kirk has a knack for winding up his political opponents, an important piece of carving out a durable Trump era persona, but the shirt, a play on Sen. Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign logo, has been around for at least a year or two.
An unwelcome guest?
An audacious piece here courtesy of Jackson Richman, an editor and columnist for The National Discourse.
"It's fair to say that a significant portion of the CPAC audience, especially as it's very Trumpian, does not like the Senate majority leader," he said. "Even though (Mitch McConnell has) given conservatives Gorsuch, tax reform, judges below the Supreme Court level, you name it."
So what's been the response so far?
"I've only been here for a bit," Richman said, "but the reaction has been ... it's given people a chuckle here and there."
As trolling goes (at least given Republicans' intra-party tensions), this gets top marks.
Simple and to the point.
Trump's online campaign shop has come to life in the bowels of the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, courtesy of the "Make America Great Again Committee." Purchases here help feed the Trump campaign's coffers.
Throwbacks are in style, of course, but there wasn't too much here to get excited about. Anyway, there's always next year.
Hayek, Friedman, Rand and ... MLK?
One of these tees is not like the others.
The economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman are perennial conservative favorites. Ayn Rand, the author, is of course another hero of the political right. And then there's the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Asked how the Civil Rights icon found himself as part of this odd quadruple, Nikki Comerford, an event planner and exhibit manager for The Heartland Institute offered this:
"Because they feel he is a freedom fighter and was one of the free market heroes."
Fair enough! (At least on the first part. King's feelings about capitalism were, well, less warm