4:22 p.m.: Crowd shrinks for Cain?
If a walk to the collection of a few hundred outhouses here (call it Potty City) is any indication, former Republican presidential candidate and radio host Herman Cain wasn't the most popular speaker at the Bakersfield Business Conference.
I happened to be walking to the bathrooms as Laura Ingraham was finishing up her speech. By the time I got there, Cain had started; I turned around and saw hundreds of people streaming toward the porta-potties behind me.
A couple of hours after lunch, was it simply time to go for people who didn't want to cut out in the middle of Ingraham's speech (and certainly not for entertaining sessions from James Carville and Ann Coulter, Magic Johnson and Ben Carson before that), or had people planned Cain's session as a bathroom break?
One couple I noticed might give a hint:
Man: "So, Herman Cain doesn't do it for you?"
Woman: "Herman Cain has never done it for me."
Well, then. Let the record show that the main tent still had many seats filled for Cain's energetic speech, but Potty City was busy, too.
— Zach Ewing
4:15 p.m.: Magic provides a change of pace
After James Carville and Ann Coulter spent a contentious half-hour arguing, bickering and interrupting about the upcoming election, Lakers legend Magic Johnson provided a dramatic mood shift with an engaging session that was more meet-and-greet than it was speech.
Magic walked through the crowd, talking about his successes in sports and business, all the while stopping for photos and autographs with rapt fans of all ages. His 1,000-watt smile worked on children, the elderly and a teenager wearing his jersey who couldn't resist a big hug.
— Zach Ewing (with video by Trevor Horn)
3:45 p.m.: Magic talks sports and social media
2:50 p.m.: Unenthused about the presidential candidates
Carolyn and Howard Mack understand the power of the right outfit to get you into the spirit at the Bakersfield Business Conference.
He came decked out in a button-down with scenes from the counterculture 1969 Jack Nicholson cult classic “Easy Rider.” She had a bag festooned with the Lone Star flag of her native Texas and shoes that had an American flag motif. They’ve been to this rodeo before.
“Half my outfit is underneath my chair,” said Mrs. Mack. “It’s just so hot.”
The two, who have been to most of the conferences over the years, noticed this year’s edition is a little smaller.
“People in the past were in awe,” said Mrs Mack, a retiree. “It’s OK.”
Mrs. Mack represents a great number of fellow Americans who are unenthused with their choices for president.
“I think she lies,” Mrs. Mack said of Hillary Clinton. “But I don’t like hearing that kind of stuff about women from him. What woman does?
“Politics are getting dirtier and dirtier in more ways than one.”
As his wife was being interviewied under the blazing sun outside the main tent, Mack was stunned to learn she recently changed her registration from Democrat to Republican, his party.
“I thought I knew everything about her!”
— Jennifer Self
1:45 p.m.: Carville v. Coulter wakes up crowd
If Bakersfield Business Conference organizers worried about an after-lunch drowse, political pundits Ann Coulter and James Carville shook attendees out of their post-deep-pit lethargy.
Surely never in the history of the staid conference has someone uttered the P-word - as in the actual word - from the dais. But provocateur Coulter did just that, referring to the now-infamous comments the Republican presidential nominee made 11 years ago that were unearthed by the Washington Post Friday.
Coulter went on to call Trump a “potty mouth” while branding former President Bill Cinton a “serial rapist.” But she did allow that though she would change none of Trump’s policies, his personality could use some work.
“But you have to take the rough with the smooth,” she said.
The tent came alive during the bout by two of the country’s most polarizing pundits, the crowd registering thunderous applause and boos, depending on the topic and insult.
Carville, who helped get Bill Clinton elected president, surely must be the MVP of good sports at the conference. His full-throated endorsement of Hillary Clinton drew constant - and loud - derision from the audience. But that didn’t stop him from having some fun.
In a callback to former Notre Dame coach Lou Holtz, who spoke earlier in the day, Carville told Trump supporters: “Let’s win one for the Groper.”
— Jennifer Self
1:44 p.m. Bakersfield councilwoman backs Trump
In an interview a few minutes ago, Bakersfield Councilwoman Jacquie Sullivan said her support for presidential candidate Donald J. Trump is unwavering despite his derogatory 2005 remarks toward women.
"I’m a Republican inside and out. It is what it is. He is a conservative candidate and I support him. We do not need more of what we've had for the past eight years. We need some major changes in our country," said Sullivan, who was first elected in 1995 and is the city's longest-serving councilwoman.
— Theo Douglas
1:25 p.m. Bakersfield development official backs Trump
Bob Bell, chairman of the Downtown Bakersfield Development Corp., the for-profit arm of the Downtown Business Association, said minutes ago he continues to back Trump despite the candidate's derogatory 2005 remarks toward women.
"I really believe he's found faith and he's not the same man he was 10 or 11 years ago," Bell said. "It's the pot calling the kettle black. I think it was a story planted by Hillary."
— Theo Douglas
1:10 p.m.: Bobby Jindal and Bill Richardson rip Trump
The issue was mostly skirted during an on-stage panel with Rep. Kevin McCarthy, but former Governors Bill Richardson, D-N.M., and Bobby Jindal, R-La., pulled no punches when asked later about Donald Trump's lewd and misogynistic 2005 comments caught on a hot mic.
Richardson said he thought the comments would be the "nail in the coffin" for Trump's campaign, even though the GOP candidate said Saturday he would never resign from the presidential race.
"I think they've got to make a decision whether to keep him or dump him," Richardson said. "And I don't believe the structure is such for him to leave the race. Because he has to do that, and he will not succumb to pressure that he should withdraw. So I think even if he does well in the debate, I think these comments will sink him."
Afterward, Richardson asked us if we would ask the same questions of Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry. We couldn't find Perry, but Jindal was game.
"Look, I think they were awful, atrocious," Jindal said. "There's no defending them. It's pathetic. Real men don't talk like that. I've heard some speculation about, did they know whether the mic was on or not? To me, that's irrelevant. I think you should act the same way in private as you do in public. The way to avoid having these embarrassing things like these recordings is not to say them in the first place. It doesn't matter whether they knew the mic was hot or not. I think they're awful comments, and I don't think anybody can or should defend them."
— Zach Ewing (video by Trevor Horn)
12:19 p.m.: Liberals: The conference black sheep
When former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson took to the stage, he said that he was probably one of the few Democrats at the heavily conservative-populated Bakersfield Business Conference.
So we went on a hunt to find those Bakersfield Business Conference black sheep – liberals.
In the political tent as the Politichicks debated, Bakersfield City School District Board Trustee Pam Baugher was sporting a Hillary Clinton campaign button -- two of them, actually. And she was using a Hillary lawn sign as a sunshade.
“There’s no doubt I’m a minority here. Somebody has to stand up for what’s right,” Baugher said, adding that a conference volunteer told her she wished she could wear the same button, but couldn’t because of rules that required them to be nonpartisan.
Baugher’s not a registered Democrat – in fact, she was a registered Republican for most of her life up until May. What made her jump the ship?
“Trump,” Baugher said. “Trump is disgusting. It’s time for a good woman.”
She describes herself these days as a political moderate, voting for people, not parties. She groused at the Politichicks rhetoric in the tent.
“These two have drunk the Kool-Aid,” Baugher said as one of the Politichicks talked about how Clinton would bring in “refugee after refugee.”
Baugher, who was at the conference with her daughter and her friend, said they both had abandoned her during that presentation.
“They couldn’t stand it,” Baugher said.
12:10 p.m.: Richardson quips
Former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson in the main tent:
"I'm half Hispanic," he said. "I understand (Sheriff) Joe Arpaio is here. Please don't tell him I'm here. I don't want to be deported."
— Steven Mayer
11:51 a.m.: Rick Perry thoughts on need for more arts
11:45 a.m.: Protesters: "There are other voices here."
They were a small group, but they said they wanted people to know that Kern County is diverse and contains many voices.
So nine members of the Young Progressive Coalition carried their message to the gates of the Bakersfield Business Conference held at Cal State Bakersfield on Saturday.
“Declare war on poverty,” one protester’s T-shirt said.
“Don’t make hate our business,” one man’s sign said.
Neel Sannappa, a spokesman for the group, suggested the business conference is misnamed.
“The conference seems to be more about politics than business,” Sannappa said.
He was especially critical of two top guest speakers at the conference, Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and political commentator and author Ann Coulter, saying they each traffic in racist politics and attacks on immigrants and the LGBT community.
“They were the Trump before there was Trump,” he said. “They have freedom of speech, but so do we.”
The conference is a Republican love-fest, he said, a gathering of conservatives who have moved toward the extreme right wing of the political spectrum in the age of Trump.
“We just want people to know,” Sannappa said, “there are other voices here.”
— Steven Mayer
11:25 a.m.: Retired Army Col. Allen West speaks
11 a.m.: Holtz vs. Arpaio
It was a contrast in style and substance when fiery Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio - who bills himself as “America’s toughest sheriff” - and inspirational college football coach Lou Holtz spoke at the same time in different tents.
Though Holtz held forth in the main tent, which sits some 6,000 people, it was Arpaio, at the political tent, who fed the red meat to the mostly conservative listeners they seemed to crave. The controversial sheriff, a lightning rod for controversy for his treatment of inmates in the Maricopa County jail, threw out applause line after applause line:
“Everybody (in his jail) is a vegetarian because we took away the meat.”
“We put an American flag in every cell.”
“They’ll remember me as the pink underwear sheriff,” said Arpaio of the pink boxers he’s made standard issue at his jails to dissuade inmates from stealing them upon their release.
Ever the pitchman, Arpaio had a display of pink underwear alongside his published works in the book tent.
— Jennifer Self
10:58 a.m.: Here's more from Lou Holtz
10:52 a.m.: Lou Holtz drawing lots of laughs
Lou Holtz, 79 years young, sprung out onto stage and started a motivational speech that drew plenty of laughs and polite applause.
Best one-liner: "I'm so old now my birthday candles cost more than my cake."
Best advice: "There are thousands of words in the English language. Only one is critical: Choice. If you want to improve your life, write down on a piece of paper what your goal is for one year from now. Write down the talents you need and the work you need to do to get there. You have to choose to succeed."
— Zach Ewing
10:34 a.m.: Bakersfield resident comments on leaked Donald Trump video
10:22 a.m.: "Glamour of Barstow"
Talk radio host Stephanie Miller popped into the media tent a bit ago. A few of her observations:
I am “curious to know what people are telling their children” in light of new revelations regarding comments about women made by Donald Trump in 2005.
Her impression of Bakersfield:
“All the glamour of Barstow and the gateway to Fresno.”
— Steven Mayer
10:20 a.m.: Vicki Lawrence takes the stage
10:11 a.m.: Mack Wimbish on the job
Just spotted: former Kern County Sheriff Mack Wimbish wearing a TransWest security shirt and holding a walkie-talkie. Granted, the shirt was kind of cool.
— Steven Mayer
10:02 a.m.: Overheard at #bakobizcon
"It was supposed to be a Bloody Mary, but was more like tomato juice."
— Steven Mayer
9:58 a.m.: High school senior meets her hero
Bakersfield Christian High School senior Madi Thorb finished her application to the University of Notre Dame two days ago, but her finger has been hovering over the send button ever since. That could change after she met legendary Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz today at the Business Conference.
Thorb, 17, bounced out of the tent, smiling wide and showing a few schoolmates a freshly signed copy of Holtz’s book, “Wins, Losses and Lessons.” He was signing copies for a line of attendees that stretched outside the tent.
“I want to go to Notre Dame so badly,” said Thorb, who plans on majoring in political science. “It’s my dream school.”
“I hope you go to Notre Dame,” Holtz wrote, including his phone number below his autograph. The former ESPN analyst told Thorb to call him in a couple of days to chat about Notre Dame and that he would give her something, “hopefully a shirt” Thorb said.
Maybe that phone call will be motivation enough for Thorb to gain the courage to open up her online application and hit send.
- Harold Pierce
9:44 a.m.: Add sheriff to list of unenthusiastic Trump supporters
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood was making his way to the main tent, still recovering from the Thursday night Fox Theater concert by the sons of Merle Haggard, a close friend of the sheriff.
Youngblood was diplomatic in saying he was excited to see "all the speakers," but in his comments about presidential nominee, he was a little more direct.
"I'm a Trump supporter by default," said the conservative sheriff. "I think we've gotten to the point where we're digging for negatives."
- Jennifer Self
9:30 a.m.: Asked about 2005 recording, attendees defend Trump
In the moments before the 9:30 a.m. welcome to the 2016 Bakersfield Business Conference, several of the between 6,000 and 7,000 estimated attendees defended embattled Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump, captured in 2005 making derogatory comments about women, in a video that became public Friday.
Return visitor Wayne Baker said repeatedly he hadn’t seen the clip — but said various controversies that have dogged the Trump campaign have seemed to have longer shelf-lives than similar events surrounding the Hillary Clinton campaign.
“However, I think that all these distractions in the presidential election are taking focus away from the major points,” Baker said, emphasizing the U.S. needs to resolve core issues like its national debt.
“Sure, it’s important,” Baker said, referring to the significance of Trump’s remarks. As for their staying power, he said: “I think it’s related to the fact that he’s a public figure with an entertainment value.”
Michael Chertok, retired Cal State Bakersfield vice president of university advancement, said the conference will remind attendees to get involved in the nation’s political process.
Chertok hadn’t seen the clip either. And despite calls on Trump to withdraw — including from conference speaker and political commentator Hugh Hewitt — he said he didn’t think the event would drive the issue.
Attendee Patricia McClanahan said said she’d be curious to hear what speakers had to say about Trump. She said she didn’t like the candidate’s remarks in the 2005 clip — but defended him and the Republican Party.
“They’re not corrupt like she is and her husband. Look at what she’s lived with all these years, all the corruption in her life,” McClanahan said. “You know what you’re going to get with her. It’s going to be one scandal after another."
Blue Sky Media owner T. J. Esposito, one of Bakersfield’s record 25 mayoral candidates in the June primary, said his wife found Trump’s remarks “pretty offensive,” but also defended him.
“You’re a guy, I’m a guy. We talk crap,” Esposito said.
He told a reporter he believes Trump has definitely changed in the 11 years since the clip was recorded, praised him for apologizing and said he thinks the latest controversy could blow over.
“It’s interesting he apologized. It kind of shows me he’s maybe got a little sensitivity,” Esposito said. “He’s not a groomed politician and this is an example of what we’re getting without a person who was raised to be a politician.”
- Theo Douglas
9:15 a.m.: Brave liberal speaker faces Trump supporters
Liberal radio talk show host Stephanie Miller faced a room full of Donald Trump supporters in the political tent. The first speaker of the day faced hostile questions about her support for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, but she managed to disarm at least one heckler with her wit.
"You're heckling me and supporting me; I feel like you're my mother."
Miller said she believed the 2005 recording that surfaced Friday capturing Trump saying outrageous things about women might be his undoing, though she conceded she knows of no mechanism in place to remove him from the Republican ticket. She also fielded questions about her support for Clinton.
"I've met her three times. The caricature in the media is not the person I met. ... She's dedicated her life to public service."
As her speech wound down, Trump supporters drifted to the exits.
"And the tent is clearing out," she said from the dais.
"Yeah, because you're a commie," said one man as he beat his retreat.
- Jennifer Self
9 a.m.: Conference speaker Hugh Hewitt calls on Trump to withdraw from race
Donald Trump is refusing to step down from the presidential race, despite reports that several members of the GOP, including conservative radio personality Hugh Hewitt, has called on him to do so.
Hewitt, who will speak today at the Bakersfield Business Conference, took to Twitter this morning, calling on Trump to abandon his campaign “for the benefit of the country.”
For the benefit of the country, the party and his family, and for his own good, @realDonaldTrump should withdraw. More and worse oppo coming— Hugh Hewitt (@hughhewitt) October 8, 2016
Hewitt hinted that more opposition would be coming.
Trump told the Washington Post that despite pleas from Hewitt and other members of the GOP that he would not drop out.
“I’d never withdraw. I’ve never withdrawn in my life,” Trump told the Washington Post. “No, I’m not quitting this race. I have tremendous support.”
Hewitt’s call for Trump to step aside comes after a series of October surprises, including reports that Trump may have avoided paying millions in taxes for more than a decade after claiming a $916 million loss in 1995, and a scathing audio released this week where Trump boasts that he could use his celebrity status to grope women.
Hewitt tweeted that Trump stepping aside would not only benefit the country, but his party and family, saying that it was “for his own good.”
The remarks aren’t out of character for Hewitt, who last year called on the Republican National Committee to change conference rules to discourage Trump, then later announced his support for Trump.
But Hewitt has tussled with the candidate in recent months. During an Aug. 11 radio interview, Hewitt attempted to soften Trump’s language after the presidential candidate said that President Barack Obama is the leader of ISIS.
“Last night, you said the president was the founder of ISIS. I know what you meant. You meant that he created the vacuum, he lost the peace,” Hewitt said.
Trump wouldn’t back down, asserting that Obama was the founder of the islamic terrorist group. “I give him the most valuable player award,” Trump said.
8:43 a.m.: Where's my coffee?
My first impression of the Bakersfield Business Conference? Well, first consider I left The Californian offices at 12:50 a.m. this morning after covering Friday night high school football ... so the first thing I wanted was coffee.
And there is coffee here. But it's only in two places that I've found: The two tiny McDonald's tents in the middle of the conference grounds, both complete with lines that stretch approximately three city blocks.
Unnnh. That's the sound I make without my morning coffee. That line might just be getting a little bit longer.
— Zach Ewing
7:05 a.m.: Trump controversy expected to resonate
Brandon Martin, who with his father, George, coordinates the conference, had a mile-wide grin on his face in the media tent this morning. Acknowledging this year's speaker list doesn't have the star power of previous conferences, Martin said the uproar caused by 2005 remarks made by Donald Trump about women should wake things up on stage this year.
"When I've been talking to reporters, one thing I've been promising is we'll have a no-holds-barred debate between Ann Coulter and James Carville. This has been the election business conference and the election should be front and center."
A Republican, the Bakersfield attorney and chief of staff for Kern County Supervisor David Couch said he'll probably vote for Trump, with reservations.
"I have to look at it as a platform vote at this point. I think I'll vote for Trump, but that's not easy to say."
- Jennifer Self
6:59 a.m.: Volunteer awaits onslaught
Don Roberson has attended several business conferences over the years, but always as a guest. This year, he took up his friend's suggestion that he serve as a volunteer, so before the gates opened this morning, he was patiently manning his post in the big tent.
"I will assist people with their needs, whatever they are, with a smile," said Roberson, 72, his air visible in morning chill.
A Democrat, Roberson is leaning toward voting for Donald Trump, for the "strength" he sees in the Republican nominee. Roberson said he was not troubled by Friday's revelation of a 2005 recording on which Trump said disparaging things about women.
"He's not a practiced politician," said Roberson, who noted that perhaps the letter of the section to which he was assigned is a further sign of his support: T.
- Jennifer Self
6:45 a.m.: First person in line no fan of Trump
Mary K. was the first person in line at the Bakersfield Business Conference this morning.
"I slept on the couch to make sure I'd get up on time," said the longtime Bakersfield resident, who didn't want to give her last name or have her picture taken.
Mary was most excited to see Dr. Ben Carson, a former front runner in the race to be the Republican Party's nominee for president, and rock pioneer Chubby Checker, who is set to perform this evening.
As for a 2005 recording that surfaced Friday capturing Donald Trump making comments about groping women, Mary, 66, had no comment on the matter because she hadn't heard the news. But she isn't a fan of Trump's either way.
"He's not very complimentary about women or the handicapped," said Mary, who uses a wheelchair.
- Jennifer Self