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In March of 1984, then President Ronald Reagan wowed the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in part, by sprinkling some of his famously deft humor into his remarks.
But for Reagan, the trade deficit joke was only one in a long line of self-deprecating jokes about his age that he regularly employed during his presidency, and it had two qualities in its favor.
Recapturing Reagan's essence has long been the Holy Grail for Republican presidential hopefuls who have wasted few opportunities to invoke his memory.
But for many prospective 2012 GOP candidates, the ability to reproduce Reagan's charming jocularity does not appear to come as easily as it did to their common political idol.
A liberal might not have much liked it, but its grandees have commanded a respect that if anything has grown down the years: from its intellectual powerhouse William Buckley, founder of , with his languid manner and mid-Atlantic drawl, to the sainted Ronald Reagan himself.
Another constant of the movement for the last 40 years has been CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, an annual gathering of activists and true believers that gave a sense of where the movement was heading.