Cockburn has made it about halfway through the third rendition of the National Conservatism Conference and he's already identified some major winners and losers. Loser: Cockburn, whose room was not ready when he arrived drenched in sweat from the airport and thus was forced to change in a hotel lobby bathroom ahead of the conference's VIP welcome reception. Winner: Florida senator Marco Rubio, who made an actually decent joke about the Dallas Cowboys during his keynote address. Loser: New York magazine's Jonathan Chait, who was ratio'd on Twitter when he claimed Florida governor Ron DeSantis's...

Cockburn has made it about halfway through the third rendition of the National Conservatism Conference and he’s already identified some major winners and losers. Loser: Cockburn, whose room was not ready when he arrived drenched in sweat from the airport and thus was forced to change in a hotel lobby bathroom ahead of the conference’s VIP welcome reception. Winner: Florida senator Marco Rubio, who made an actually decent joke about the Dallas Cowboys during his keynote address. Loser: New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait, who was ratio’d on Twitter when he claimed Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s speech was courting “anti-vaxxers” and has now been deemed an enemy of the NatCons.

Technically, everyone at this year’s conference is a winner. Last year, attendees were forced into a Hilton in Orlando. This time around, NatCons are in the lap of luxury: a JW Marriott in Miami. There is a PGA-level golf course and a Bourbon Steak on site. The minibar gummy bears cost $9 and the robes are lined with fleece. Nice.

The biggest loser thus far, however, is Florida senator Rick Scott, who delivered the first keynote speech of Sunday night’s sit-down dinner.

In between bites of short rib and sips of red wine, attendees at Cockburn’s table whipped out their phones to complain to their friends about Scott’s address. Scott repeatedly mashed words together into an incoherent mess and stumbled on syllables — “grrfriend” instead girlfriend and “crims” instead of criminals. At one point, he accidentally said that he was “driving Joe Biden’s nuts”, which Cockburn’s table-mates noted sounded a touch queer. Some attendees surmised that Scott must be drunk, or maybe his lizard tongue just got in the way. Others compared him to a Republican Joe Biden or John Fetterman.

Unfortunately, the content of the speech wasn’t much better. Scott seemed to think he was in a room with boomer NRSC donors as opposed to the much younger — and more “based”, dare Cockburn say — national conservatives. He promised that the Republicans would give the Democrats a “real butt-kicking” in the midterms and droned about the dangers of socialism. He stated the obvious about double standards in the media and told an unintelligible story about someone being “pummeled with bullets” because Democrats are soft on crime. Worse still, he took a victory lap over his leadership of the NRSC even as he’s been accused of running the organization’s finances into the ground. Pretty much the only major applause he received was when he took a potshot at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who Scott needled for questioning the quality of this year’s Republican senatorial candidates.

Imagine how the crowd felt when DeSantis took the stage right after a bumbling Scott. It was as if the heavens had opened up to thank Cockburn for his sacrifice. Now you may enjoy the fruits of your suffering! DeSantis spoke clearly and passionately about his administration’s accomplishments. Most impressively, he did so for about forty-five minutes with just a small piece of paper for notes.

Cockburn was shockingly responsible last night and turned in early after the dinner. He wishes he could take credit, but there didn’t seem to be much of a bar scene shaping up anyway. People probably needed time to recover from trying to decipher Scott’s stammering. As a reward, Cockburn will spend the rest of the afternoon by the hotel pool.