So now that the show's over, let me address the elephant in the room. Or in this case, the donkey.
Yeah, I invited Howard Dean to join us this year. I know, I know, what the hell was I thinking? And no I wasn't just hoping he still had his Secret Service detail (and their expense budgets).
As I've argued before, we do ourselves a disservice by filtering out contrary opinions and points of view. In the spirit of Willy Wonka, I thought it would be fun to bring in someone from the left to address our overwhelming Republican audience. But in the months leading up to this year's expo, any sense of fun withered under the barrage of emails and phone calls I received.
So I'll admit to more than a little anxiety as we headed down to the general session room to see him. But Howard Dean came out blasting like Rabbit going after Papa Doc at the end of 8 Mile—co-opting the opposition's case before anyone in the crowd could make it.
"The individual mandate was unnecessary," he said.
"I was not a terribly big supporter of [PPACA], but we have what we have," he lamented.
"This is an election year," he explained. "They'll say whatever to get elected."
I looked around the room and noticed a sea of nodding heads—for the next 60 minutes. While he didn't exactly stay on the same page as the crowd for the entire session, he at least spoke the same language.
The session wrapped on a pair of revelations even this bleary-eyed moderator couldn't miss.
For starters, we really did get a piece of legislation no one ended up wanting, like some kind of Vegas bride with a hangover.
And, finally, we saw a ray of hope that bipartisanship isn't as dead as we thought. I mean, it might still be on life support, but at least that old girl's still breathing.