(CNN) - Conservative activists from across the country are gathering in Washington for their annual conference to rally members and try to integrate the burgeoning Tea Party movement within the fold.
The three-day CPAC conference features both rising stars and political heavyweights in the Republican Party who will voice their views on the best way forward as discontent with the government grows and the midterm election cycle gets going.
Marco Rubio, a darling of the Tea Party and candidate for Florida's Republican Senate nomination, is expected to tell attendees Thursday that as a midterms near, voters are "looking for leaders that understand what is happening, will stand up to it and in its place offer a clear alternative."
The elections will not be just a choice between Republicans or Democrats or liberals or conservative, but "it will be a referendum on our nations [sic] very identity," he plans to say, according to excerpts released by his campaign.
South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, anti-tax advocate Grover Norquist and former Texas Rep. Rick Armey were among other leading conservatives scheduled to speak on the opening day of the conference.
(CNN) - Karin Hoffman, the founder of a Florida Tea Party chapter called DC Works for Us, is echoing Sarah Palin's recent comments that the organization should not field third-party candidates.
"Until a third party would actually pull away from both sides of the equation, it really would be disruptive and kind of diminish what we're trying to do," Hoffman said on CNN's American Morning Thursday. "Our goal is in this election cycle… is on a local level we will identify the candidates that best represent us."
Hoffman's comments come two days after former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin - the keynote speaker at the recent Tea Party Convention in Nashville - said it's time for members of the group to get behind either the Democrat or Republican Party.
"Because the Tea Party movement is not a party, and we have a two-party system, they're going to have to pick a party and run one or the other: 'R' or 'D'," Palin said during a Republican Party fundraiser in Arkansas, according to CBS News.
Hoffman's comments also come two days after members of the Tea Party movement met with Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele.
Hoffman, who initiated the event with Steele, said the meeting was an opportunity to be "able to have the patriots and citizens throughout the country come out and response to legislation…to be heard by the political establishment."
Washington (CNN) - They lost their supermajority in the Senate last month but it seems January was a very good month for Senate Democrats when it comes to fundraising.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee will announce Thursday that it brought in $5.1 million last month, which they say is the biggest monthly haul of this 2010 campaign cycle and their best January ever when it comes to fundraising. The DSCC tells CNN that it has $12.9 million cash on hand, with debt of $833,000.
No word yet on how much cash the National Republican Senatorial Committee raised last month.
The NRSC outraised its Democratic counterpart in December but began the new year trailing the DSCC when it came to money in the bank. The two parties were nearly neck-and-neck when it comes to fundraising totals over the course of 2009: Democrats raised a total of $43.5 million while Republicans took in $41.2 million.
"With these resources, we will make sure that In November voters face a choice between Republicans standing with Washington's special interests and Democrats who are standing up for them," says DSCC communications director Eric Schultz. "Democrats are energized when they see Republicans carrying water for the special interests in Washington day in and day out. Our supporters are driven to get involved when they see the other party standing with the corporate interests on any given issue."
Each party is defending 18 seats this cycle. Republican Sen. Scott Brown's victory last month in a special senate election in Massachusetts gave his party 41 seats in the chamber, denying the Democrats their 60 seat filibuster-proof supermajority.
Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
TOPICS: Economy, jobs
Washington (CNN) - President Obama will meet the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, on Thursday at the White House despite strong objections from the Chinese government.
The meeting has the potential to complicate Sino-U.S. tensions further, which have been rising in recent months.
China has warned the meeting will certainly damage ties with Washington.
"It will seriously undermine the Sino-U.S. political relations," Zhu Weiqun, a senior Communist Party leader in charge of ethnic and religious affairs, said recently. "We will take corresponding action to make relevant countries see their mistakes."
TOPICS: Dalai Lama, Tibet, China, human rights, Taiwan, Pope Benedict XVI, Billy Graham, Pat Robertson
Washington (CNN) - In 1994, Newt Gingrich and other Republican leaders convinced GOP candidates to sign the "Contract with America," a document of conservative principles that included a pledge the House would vote on these issues.
The contract provided GOP candidates with succinct talking points on the campaign trail – ideas that resonated with a restless electorate – and congressional Democrats were swept out of power that year.
Fast forward to 2010 and Gingrich is promoting a second contract, except the newest incarnation was not drafted by him, party officials or political insiders. The "Contract From America" was organized by the Tea Party Patriots, an organization that describes itself as an advocate for "grassroots-generated, crowd-sourced, bottom-up call for real economic conservative and good governance reform in Congress."
The National Taxpayers Union, Regular Folks United and Liberty Central are part of this coalition of about 50 groups brought together by Tea Party Patriots that stand behind the new contract. It will be unveiled at Tea Party rallies on tax day, April 15.
Washington (CNN) - Nearly three-quarters of all Americans think that Tibet should be an independent country, according to a new national poll.
But the CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey released Thursday also indicates that most Americans think it is more important to maintain good relations with China than to take a stand on Tibet.
The poll's release came as President Barack Obama was to meet with the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader in exile of Tibet, at the White House.
The Dalai Lama is popular with Americans, according to the survey, with 56 percent holding a favorable view of him and only 18 percent having an unfavorable impression.
"That puts him in the same neighborhood as other major religious figures," says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. "Favorable ratings for the Pope, at 59 percent, and Billy Graham, at 57 percent are virtually identical to the numbers for the Dalai Lama."
The poll also indicates that 53 percent say it's more important for the United States to take a strong stand on human rights in China rather than to maintain good relations with Beijing, with 44 percent saying good relations are more important.
By a 6 point margin, the survey also shows that more Americans say taking a strong stand on Taiwan by force is more important than maintaining good relations with Beijing.
The CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll was conducted February 12-15, with 1,023 adult Americans questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 3 percentage points for the overall survey.
–CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser contributed to this story
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