By Shane D'Aprile - 02/12/11 07:44 PM ET
Freshman Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) gave a speech to close this year's Conservative Political Action Conference that earned a more enthusiastic reaction from conservative activists than those given by most rumored 2012 presidential hopefuls over the past three days.
The first-term congressman brought the audience to its feet several times late Saturday, repudiating President Obama's social and economic policies and promising "a new dawn in America."
West took the coveted speaking slot that was rejected by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who declined to attend CPAC for the fourth straight year.
West, who represents a district that voted for President Obama in 2008 and Sen. John Kerry in 2004, will be a top Democratic target next year and opened his speech by noting the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has already run a radio ad in his district.
West told the crowd that despite what the "liberal media" might say about his electoral vulnerability in 2012, "standing here before each and every one of you, I don't feel so vulnerable, do I."
West, who touted efforts by House Republicans to push for some $100 billion in spending cuts, offered a closing keynote that was chock full of red meat for the base.
West said now is the time to reform the tax code, lower taxes on business, eliminate the capital gains tax and fight for the adoption of a Constitutional balanced budget amendment
"I say we start looking at every government agency and program that's been created in the last ten years, and let's start making some hard choices," said West, who received a loud cheer when he singled out the Environmental Protection Agency.
He said "liberal progressivism" has failed all over the world and he devoted a sizable portion of his speech to social issues, emphasizing his opposition to abortion and gay marriage.
"If you break down the American family, that leads to government dependency," said West.
On abortion, he said, "I do not believe having a baby is punishment."
West spoke of Friday's "historic moment" in Egypt with the resignation of longtime President Hosni Mubarak, but he held up the Iranian revolution as a cautionary tale and recalled the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan.
"History has a way of teaching you a very bad lesson if we don't listen," he said.
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