NATIONAL HARBOR, Md.—"We paid for this food!" said Rep. Louie Gohmert. "You gotta eat it!"
It was the first evening of CPAC, and Gohmert was holding court at a party for his new political committee—the evocatively named GOH PAC. Frank Gaffney was there. Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, was there too, occasionally side-eying the reporters in the room. "Bo Snerdley," the call screener/impersonation maestro on Rush Limbaugh's show, chatted with guests and took questions about what it took to get into radio. A stream of guests snacked on mini-focaccia sandwiches and crudite, or paid $20 to start a tab at the bar.
Some of the guests were running for Congress. Gohmert ushered Niger Innis, the black conservative activist and pundit, over to a microphone. Innis had just started running in Nevada's 4th District, a new seat drawn in 2011 to elect a Democrat.
"I was asked by a media commentator, will you be joining Louie's group when you make it to Congress?" said Innis. "I said, no, I'm not joining Louie's group. I'm going to be his black Siamese twin when I get to Congress!"
Gohmert roared with laughter and hugged his pal. "I'll be in the trenches with Louie," said Innis. "I have been before."
"We have any more candidates?" asked Gohmert.
A young man named J.D. Winteregg approached the mic.
"I'm running in Ohio's 8th District against Speaker Boehner," he said.
The crowd, led by Gohmert, cheered and applauded.
"Obviously, I'm going to need help, so, thank you."
Winteregg passed the mic back to Gohmert. "Thank you," said the congressman. "All right, awesome."
The din picked up as Gohmert's guests gave short speeches—Phyllis Schlafly, Tea Party Patriots' Jenny Beth Martin. Gohmert kept to the side, bursting with emotion. He grabbed the mic back to describe what he felt.
"It takes me back to a funeral I attended at Arlington National Cemetary," said Gohmert. The crowd, urged very strongly by Snerdley, stopped muttering. Gohmert told the story of Ross McGinnis, a soldier who was on patrol in 2006 when an insurgent tossed a grenade into his humvee.* "Instead of jumping out of the humvee to save his own life, 19-year-old Ross jumped out of the hole, took the full force, gave his own life. Four people are alive today because of Ross McGinnis."
The room had fallen silent. "Nobody here will hopefully have to give their lives to save four other people. But this country is in jeopardy. If it takes an hour a week, four hours a week, we can save this country for future generations. If we do that, they will look back and call us blessed."
*Correction, March 7, 2014: This post originally misspelled Medal of Honor recipient Ross McGinnis' last name.