Washington (CNN) - Flash back four years ago.
Mitt Romney dropped his bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination in his speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference. The former Massachusetts governor, at the time one of the conservative alternatives to eventual GOP nominee Sen. John McCain of Arizona, went on to win CPAC's much-watched presidential straw poll, the second of this three straight victories at the annual gathering of conservative leaders.
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Fast forward back to present day: Romney, now the front-runner in his second bid for the nomination, is getting ready to once again speak at CPAC, but this time, just days after stinging losses in three contests.
This time around, Romney is whom some conservatives are still seeking an alternative to.
This is the 39th edition of what is considered the largest and most influential gathering of conservative leaders and activists from across the country. Romney, as well as former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, will address the audience on Friday. The other major Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, is skipping the conference to campaign in Maine, which is holding its caucuses this week, but his son, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, will speak at CPAC Thursday.
"Conservatives are the base of the movement and the right," Al Cardenas, the chairman of the American Conservative Union, the group that puts on CPAC, said Thursday on CNN's "Starting Point."
"A small handful of annual events have become a major center of gravity for conservatives. Of those, CPAC is perhaps the most high-profile and pivotal – especially in a presidential election year. There's much talk in the press about whether conservatives are fractured in their support for a particular issue or candidate – but conferences like CPAC can have a significant unifying effect," said Levi Russell, director of public affairs for Americans for Prosperity, a fiscally conservative political advocacy group that supports businesses and fights government regulations.
This year's edition of CPAC features what can be considered an all-star lineup of conservatives: former Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, former GOP presidential candidate and Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who recently dropped her bid for the nomination, Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Congressmen Paul Ryan, Jim Jordan, Steve King, and Allen West, and governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Rick Scott of Florida and Scott Walker of Wisconsin.
CPAC will close Saturday with the results of the much-watched GOP presidential straw poll and Palin's speech. Romney's three straight victories from 2007-2009 have been followed by a trifecta of wins by Paul.
Thanks to Santorum's victories Tuesday in the Colorado and Minnesota caucuses and in a non-binding primary in Missouri, the race for the GOP nomination appears unsettled, with front-runner Romney having a hard time locking down support from conservatives and tea party activists.
"It will be interesting. We haven't had a real contested presidential race here at CPAC in two decades," adds Cardenas.
And that's why all eyes will be on CPAC this weekend.
"If CPAC was important in the battle for the Republican nomination, that importance has only intensified since Tuesday's results, said Doug Heye, a GOP strategist and former communications director for the Republican National Committee. "This is the best chance for the four remaining candidates to make the case to a wide swath of conservative voters - and activists - why they are the best choice to defeat Barack Obama."
Will they have jugglers and funny clowns?
I just read the list of speaks – so I guess the answer is YES :)
Want to know what's wrong with America? It can be seen at this meeting
Sarah Palin is the first name in an "all-star lineup" of conservatives? Enough said about that organization...
Is Christ going to speak at this event?
Today our country is pretty much completely supported by the high taxes of the high income earners. They pay much more in every way than middle class and certainly the lower earners who generally pay nothing.
Mitt Romney's net tax rate is half of what most of us pay. That's not fair.
Mitt Romney worked at a company that let's him declare his income as capital gains for no better reason than the fact that the company sold capital instead of widgets. That's not fair.
DeMint, center of gravity? We got two kinds of REPS, those like DeMint who want sinners unemployed beginning with gay teachers or unwed mom teachers – unwed dads are OK to work – the good ole boy system. Then we got the new REPS' dream workforce fashioned after the illegal drug and sex trade where there are no rights, no voice, no safety, no fair wage, no healthcare, no pension, no retirement, and no slave quarters in the 21st century because it's too much overhead and too close to socialism.
I really enjoy reading all the hate filled remarks from the so-called "enlightened" left. If you wonder why there is so much obstruction and division in politics, just read these comment forums. Our representatives are doing exactly what they are meant to do, represent us. The gross caricature of a conservative being overly religious, obsessed with guns, and horribly bigoted is no different than the caricature of liberals being intellectually devoid, perma-baked, and irrationally sentimental. Ironically, it seems to be liberals displaying the greatest amount of bigotry.The definition is intolerance to any ideals other than your own. In all fairness, there is plenty of the same brand of bigotry among conservatives. I just notice it seems more prominent and accepted among liberals. The idea of a conscientious, pragmatic conservative without dogmatic religious beliefs just doesn't fit with the stereotype that makes you feel superior, so you dismiss the possibility. You are part of the problem, not the solution.
how can amreican be so dumb it took a dem prez to give us a surplus ecomomy a balance budget 4 year in a row. it took a fiscal consertive republican prez and his party to ruin our country. they so be so ashame of themselves even to utter the word fiscal consertivism
Hey 'Truth', about the Greek problem, did you knew that they (the past three Federal Greek Govt.) paid hundreds of millions of dollars to Goldman Sachs and other banks in order to be helped to LIE to their European buddies about the status of their finances? How come you forgot that little known (hardly actually, its easy to find out the articles regarding the story) 'Truth' about the causes of their financial crisis?
Rudy NYC - @Truth – I pointed out what caused the problems. Just like the Postal Service was fine until the Republicans fixed it during their lame duck session in 2006.
Correction Rudy, you lied about what caused Greece's problem. You know if you're going to make stuff up like that, you might want to see if you can get Google shut down first.
As for the Post Office, you mean the Republicans requiring the post office to actually fund their massive retirees healthcare costs??? They are supposed to be self-sufficient! I suppose you want all of us to pay for it right! The problem, once AGAIN, is their massive, unsustainable union labor and benefits costs CRUSHING the organization. If the USPS fiasco was a real business it would have gone under decades ago. Only endless amounts of taxpayer bailouts have kept it afloat over the years. Sooner or later the USPS is going to have to face reality and dela with the union monster on its back.
Larry L- Conservative has absolutely nothing to do with race, religion, bigotry or xenophobia, it simply means favoring less government. The fact that more people identify as conservative has more to do with the fact that fiscally conservative and socially conservative are not distinguished in the poll (Gallup 2010 conservatives outnumber liberals and moderates). Many people (myself included) identify as conservative because we don't like the idea of an intrusive authoritarian government.
Reudy NYC -
Mitt Romney's net tax rate is half of what most of us pay. That's not fair.
Mitt Romney worked at a company that let's him declare his income as capital gains for no better reason than the fact that the company sold capital instead of widgets. That's not fair
And even if it WAS, all the money collected STILL wouldn't be enough to fund Obama's massive spending. So who will you steal from then???
And exactly what is "fair" about 47% paying NO FEDERAL INCOME TAX??? Oh yeah, that's how Democrats buy their votes....
We want Rowland back.