(CNN) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich warned the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday that the left is "antithetical to the survival of America."
"I believe we are now in a struggle over whether or not we are going to save America," Gingrich said. "I believe the radical left is a secular, socialist machine so dedicated to values destructive of America that if it is allowed to remain in power…that machine is antithetical to the survival of America as a prosperous healthy country. "
More of Gingrich's speech after the jump:
Washington (CNN) – An unexpected visitor showed up at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday: South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford.
Sanford, one year removed from being listed as a likely 2012 presidential candidate on the CPAC straw poll ballot, made a quiet entrance into the Marriott hotel where the yearly gathering of conservative activists takes place. He was in Washington attending meetings with the National Governors Association and Republican Governors Association.
The governor spent about half an hour in a VIP room chatting with a friend from graduate school, he told reporters as he walked out of the hotel.
He said he was simply making a social visit, with no political overtones.
Sanford said he wants to remain in South Carolina after his term expires next year but has no plans after that. "I'll figure it out when I get there," he said.
Washington (CNN) – Texas Rep. Ron Paul, a stalwart foe of government spending, won a blowout victory Saturday in the annual Conservative Political Action Conference presidential straw poll.
With participants naming "reducing the size of federal government" as their top issue, the 74-year old libertarian hero captured 31 percent of the nearly 2,400 votes cast in the annual contest, usually seen as a barometer of how the GOP's conservative wing views their potential presidential candidates.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney finished second with 22 percent of the vote, ending a three-year winning streak at CPAC. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin finished third with 7 percent of the vote, followed by Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at 6 percent and Indiana Rep. Mike Pence at 5 percent.
They were followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who tied at 4 percent. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, South Dakota Sen. John Thune and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour rounded out the results.
Five percent of participants voted for "Other" and six percent were undecided.
Gov. David Paterson, D-New York, launched a bid for his own term Saturday. (Getty Images)
(CNN) - Embattled New York Gov. David Paterson formally kicked off a bid for his own gubernatorial term Saturday, vowing to prove political observers wrong who say he has little chance at escaping a Democratic primary.
“So many people are saying I shouldn’t run for governor,” Paterson said at a rally at New York's Hofstra University, where he obtained his law degree. “But you need to know that this is a governor that does not quit.”
"The politicians and pundits…they want to know how you are doing in antiseptic polls before a campaign has even been run and they want to know how much money you've collected from the special interests and the Albany insiders," Paterson continued. "Well here's a news flash for the media: The special interests don't like me."
Watch excerpts of Paterson's speech after the jump
Recent polls suggest Paterson lags nearly 40 points behind his likely primary opponent, state Attorney Gen. Andrew Cuomo. Paterson is also at a significant financial disadvantage with $3 million cash-on-hand compared to Cuomo's $16 million, according to The New York Times. Cuomo, the son of former New York Gov. Mario Cuomo, has yet to formally say if he will challenge Paterson.
During the 20-minute speech in front of supporters, Paterson also denounced what he described as a recent smear campaign from "tabloid newspapers."
"This governor is not going to quit because tabloid newspapers print rumors and innuendo and lies all the time waving the banner of a newspaper that could have cleared up the facts and chose not to do so," he said.
(CNN) - Conservative writer Ann Coulter took several jabs at President Obama and Democrats Saturday in a speech that had the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference hooting with cheers and laughter.
Washington (CNN) – If an anti-incumbent tide sweeps Sen. Bob Bennett out of Congress later this year, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, a fellow Utah Republican, doesn't sound like he'll be too upset.
"The people are restless, they want to see change, and Sen. Bennett, with all due respect, he is going to have to go out and defend his record and explain some things to voters," Chaffetz told CNN Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
Bennett is seeking a fourth term, but is battling a tough anti-incumbent mood and multiple Republican challengers who are upset with his votes for the banking and auto bailouts.
Chaffetz, an up-and-coming voice in the GOP, was first elected to Congress in 2008 despite opposition from Bennett and Sen. Orrin Hatch, both of whom backed incumbent Rep. Chris Cannon in that year's Republican primary. Chaffetz has publicly split with Bennett on a number of issues and even considered challenging the incumbent senator before ruling it out last year.
"More than ever policy and principles are paramount," Chaffetz said, offering praise for the Tea Party movement and its growing influence. "You have to go out and articulate your position and justify how you voted. If you don’t do that you could very well be on your way home with a one-way ticket."
Washington (CNN) – Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum offered a mea culpa Saturday, telling conservative activists that he regrets helping Sen. Arlen Specter win re-election in 2004 and vowed to help try and defeat him in November.
Specter is a longtime centrist Republican who abandoned the GOP to become a Democrat last year. Six years ago, Santorum was questioned by his fellow social conservatives for agreeing to back Specter in the Republican primary against Rep. Pat Toomey. Santorum, who lost his own re-election in 2006, said he should have listened to his wife, Karen.
"How many times have I said this in my almost 20 years in marriage, 'I should have listened to my wife,'" Santorum said in a speech before the Conservative Political Action Conference. "Make no mistake about it I will be working day and night for Pat Toomey to be the next senator from Pennsylvania."
If Specter wins the Democratic primary, he will face Toomey, once again, only this time in the general election.
(CNN) - Longtime Michigan Democratic Rep. John Dingell announced Saturday he will seek reelection:
“Given the current status of our economy, Michigan needs experienced leaders in Washington to stand up for our families and help dig the state out of this economic depression,” Dingell said, according to prepared remarks. “Now is not the time to walk away."
Dingell, who has served in Congress since 1955, represents Michigan's 15th Congressional District.
Dingell's full remarks after the jump:
(CNN) - President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released statements Saturday mourning the death of former Secretary of State Alexander Haig.
Statement by President Obama:
Today we mourn the loss of Alexander Haig, a great American who served our country with distinction. General Haig exemplified our finest warrior-diplomat tradition of those who dedicate their lives to public service. He enjoyed a remarkable and decorated career, rising to become a four-star general and serving as Supreme Allied Commander of Europe before also serving as Secretary of State. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.
Statement by Secretary Clinton:
I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Secretary of State Alexander Haig. He served his country in many capacities for many years, earning honor on the battlefield, the confidence of Presidents and Prime Ministers, and the thanks of a grateful nation. On behalf of the men and women of the State Department, I extend my sincerest condolences to Secretary Haig's family and friends. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of them today