Washington (CNN) - Conservatives gathered Thursday for the first day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) that promised speeches from and discussions with leading Republican lawmakers, analysts and pundits. The three day meeting in Washington will culminate with a much-watched straw poll Saturday. Check back here for updates from our reports and producers throughout the day and watch the remarks live here. Read more here.
9:28 p.m. ET - Ryan also weighed in on the current flap over required health insurance coverage for contraception. The Wisconsin representative said it was an example of the "government inventing a new right that trumps the constitutional right to freedom of faith."
9:22 p.m. ET - Ryan called for a president in the style of the late President Ronald Reagan.
"Boldness and clarity create the best opportunity for a winning coalition," he said.
9:17 p.m. ET - Ryan said trust in the government was at an all-time low because the size of government was at an all time high.
He added that the election could not just be a referendum on Obama, but rather a choice between two visions from America.
9:14 p.m. ET - Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, speaking at an evening dinner event, said "We only have nine months to beat Barack Obama."
5:50 p.m. ET - Romney meets privately with conservative leaders at CPAC
"It's all fair. He knows what he's talking about," Haley said, while standing with friends in the hotel lobby after the speech.
While Haley hasn't decided who she'll vote for in the primary, she said she was an early supporter of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty before he dropped out of the race in August.
"I just felt like I could connect with him," she said.
5:20 p.m. ET - Sen. Paul said the Republican party is in the process of discovering who its next leader will be ... but no mention of his father, Republican presidential candidates Rep. Ron Paul.
5:13 p.m. ET - Second Paul question for the president: "Do you hate poor people or do you just hate poor people with jobs?"
5:10 p.m. ET - Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky opened his CPAC speech with a question for the president: "Do you hate all rich people or just those who aren't campaign contributors?"
5:05 p.m. ET - @CRrileyCNN: What's the over-under on how many times Herman Cain namedrops his website in this speech?
5:02 p.m. ET - During his speech, Cain endorsed "Joe the Plumber" or Joseph Wurzelbacher, who rose to fame during the 2008 presidential election and is currently a Congressional candidate in Ohio.
4:57 p.m. ET - Rep. Cory Gardner of Colorado, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, led his criticism of Obama and the Environmental Protection Agency by invoking the Keystone oil pipeline.
"You heard in the State of the Union when the president got in front of the American people and said that he was for an all-of-the-above energy policy," Rep Gardner said. "But I would remind you that just days before, he nixed the Keystone XL Pipeline."
"And so my guess is that all-of-the-above is something that Yogi Berra might have said, 'I'm for all of the above, unless it's all of the above,'" he added.
4:56 p.m. ET - Cain said he quit the presidential race because of "gutter politics" and because he "chose to put family first."
4:50 p.m. ET - Former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain started his remarks but taking a jab at Obama he frequently used on the campaign trail.
"Just so that there is no confusion, these teleprompters are not for me," he said pointing to the two on either side of him. "I don't do teleprompters."
4:08 p.m. ET – A clip of MSNBC host Rachel Maddow appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press" played in the introduction to the CPAC "All-Star Panel," in which she said conservatives were "waging war on contraception."
The clip was promptly booed by the audience. But nationally syndicated radio host Roger Hedgecock received cheers for his response: "I think she is the best argument in favor or her parents using contraception. I would be all for that and the rest of the crowd at MSNBC too for that matter."
It's billed as a "road map" for "citizens to extricate themselves from the overreaching grip of government and reclaim the beliefs of the Founding Fathers."
3:37 p.m. ET - Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said Republicans need to unite to end Occupy DC (a reference to the Obama presidency), which he said has dominated for 1,115 days that he hopes will end on Jan. 20, 2013, when a Republican president is sworn in.
3:32 p.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: Overheard at CPAC: "I'm seeing Santorum and Newt stickers everywhere, but I haven't seen any Romney people."
3:22 p.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: At 15 years old, Justin Schuessler stands out among the packed crowds of working professionals at CPAC. But the high school sophomore, who's missing two days of school to be here, said he's having an "amazing" time.
His dad made a nearly two-hour drive from Edgewood, Maryland to drop him off this morning, then headed to work as a pastor at a church outside of Washington, D.C.
Schuessler said he's "always been really interested in politics," that is, since the ripe age of 10, when he first started to listening to Rush Limbaugh on the radio with his dad.
While Schuessler was a Rick Perry fan when the Texas governor was still a candidate, he said he now favors another Rick.
"If I was old enough to vote, I'd vote for Rick Santorum," he said. "He's a pretty staunch conservative and knows what he believes in."
2:46 p.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: Victoria Dooling, who manages tea party relations at TeaParty.net, also said she expects the 2012 elections to feel slightly different than the tea party-centric campaigns two years ago.
"Everyone was sort of mad then. This year they've all said we are now ready to go to work," she said. "The madness has turned into focused work."
2:43 p.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: When asked to name the candidate with the strongest tea party values today, several supporters of the conservative grassroots movement have had a hard time coming up with an answer.
"That's a tough one," one woman from Nevada said, as her friend nodded in agreement.
Several people have pointed to Herman Cain, saying his famous 9-9-9 tax plan captured the tea party goals of smaller government and "fiscal sanity."
It's a pattern Victoria Dooling said she is seeing among tea party groups nationwide. Dooling manages tea party relations at TeaParty.net and works with supporters all over the country.
"I think every tea party I have talked to has said they wish he were still in the race," she said.
2:25 p.m. ET - Kirk Cameron, of "Growing Pains" fame, told the audience it is their responsibility to "teach their children the right world view."
"Hope for my family's future and our nation does not begin at the White House, it begins at your house and at my house," Cameron said.
2:19 p.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: Ron Dove, a tea party supporter, traveled from Arizona to attend CPAC for the third time.
"Seems like there's more of a buzz this year," he said, talking about the conference. "It's crazy. But then again, it's always been crazy."
2:15 p.m. ET - See former American presidents ... CPAC-style ... here.
1:56 p.m. ET - Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who dropped his presidential bid in January, compared his candidacy to "Aggies," the nickname for graduates Texas A&M, his alam mater.
"Aggies never lose, we just run out of time," Perry said. "My presidential campaign just ran out of time."
Although he is no longer a candidate for the White House, Perry said "a committed 10th amendment conservative I will be until the last breathe I draw in my body."
1:54 p.m. ET – @PeterHambyCNN: Rick Perry comes out to Muse at CPAC
1:37 p.m. ET - More on the dating symposium from @KilloughCNN: Asked what are some relationship challenges specifically faced by conservatives, Elise said sometimes they can be somewhat "stiff."
"I know it's a little cliche but it is kinda true," he said, adding that it is OK to let loose and be a little "wacky" sometimes.
Several audience members suggested "gun club" as a great first date. See a picture of the gathering here.
1:33 p.m. ET - To prove a political point, House Speaker John Boehner painted a hypothetical picture for 2014, when he predicted there will be a Republican in the White House and a Republican-controlled Senate. He said the "utopia" would include economic freedom, lower tax rates, entitlement program reform, the implementation of Rep. Paul Ryan's budget, falling gas prices and the repeal of "Obamacare."
1:31 p.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: At a session on dating lessons for conservatives, dating coach Wayne Elise, 43, told a room of about 50 people there was one "kiss of death" on first dates.
"If you're boring, you're done," he said. "Never be boring."
1:25 p.m. ET - Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition said he "likes Rick Santorum's candidacy," which focuses on the family structure.
"To restore America's economic strength you must first restore America's ... families and homes," Reed said summing up Santorum's message.
1:10 p.m. ET - Tactics similar to those former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani once used on organized crime should be employed to deal with some Latin American countries unfriendly to the United States, CPAC panelists said Thursday.
"My conclusion today is that we should treat these states, particularly the ones that we have mentioned here today - Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia, and probably Nicaragua - not so much as ideological adversaries which they are but as organized crime entities," former Assistant Secretary of State specializing in Latin America, Otto Reich, said. "They are run like the Mafia would run a country if the Mafia, our own national Mafia, wherever they are, would run a country if they took it over."
1:06 p.m. ET - Chuck Norris, who backs Newt Gingrich and who supported Mike Huckabee in 2008, is the star of a video playing at a National Rifle Association booth.
"Too many people have forgotten our nation was founded to protect freedom, like our second amendment right to keep and bear arms," Norris says in the video. "Freedom is not about what government can do for us, but about keeping government from doing things to us."
Identified in the video as a "Black Belt Patriot," Norris urges viewers to vote for candidates who "support freedom."
12:50 p.m. ET - Perry: Republican race is far from over
12:40 p.m. ET - Former presidential contender and Rep. Michele Bachmann said running for the White House was a series of humiliating experiences. She made fun of previous gaffes when describing the three things she learned during her bid: Where John Wayne was born, the day Elvis Presley was born and to "never forget the three things that you learn."
12:35 p.m. ET - Rep. Steve King of Iowa criticized government regulation, particularly in the diet of Americans. Changing the calorie count in packaged foods will not achieve the desired goal, he said.
"You cannot fool them by cutting calories out of the candy bar," King said.
And to those who consider overweight young people to be a national security concern: "Just extend basic training."
12:21 p.m. ET - @PeterHambyCNN: Rick Perry tells reporters at CPAC: "I haven’t left the fight. I went home, I reloaded my mag, and I am fighting on different front."
12:15 p.m. ET – In light of the recent discussion surround federal funding for contraceptives, former GOP presidential candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry told reporters at CPAC he feels vindicated for saying in that Iowa TV ad that Obama is waging "a war on religion."
12:12 p.m. ET – @PeterHambyCNN: Mitch McConnell at CPAC: "Last week's jobs report happened in spite of Obama's policies, not because of them."
12:10 p.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: Janet Nelson, 70, and Jean Jordan, 65, describe themselves as two "political junkie" sisters from two different coasts. They reunited this week for the second year in a row at CPAC, with Nelson hailing from Washington and Jordan driving in from nearby Virginia.
Undecided on which candidate they will support for the Republican presidential candidate, both sisters said their main criteria is to find someone who will beat President Barack Obama.
"I really think independents are going to come over," Jordan said. "People who voted for Obama feel more or less betrayed."
The sisters said they're especially excited to see New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but they get just as much, if not more, out of the lesser-known speakers.
This morning they said they were especially torn between two events.
"We were really conflicted at one point and ultimately had to give up Joe the Plumber for Marco Rubio," said Nelson.
12:06 p.m. ET - McConnell said presidents should "honor and embrace free exercise of religion, not suppress it," like President Obama has. The senior senator said Obama has forgotten he is supposed to lead all Americans and not be the president of the "Occupy Wall Street fan club."
12:03 p.m. ET – Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said he enjoys attending CPAC because "conservatives are simply more fun than liberals." Why? "We're always right."
11:54 a.m. ET - Rep. Tom Graves of Georgia said it may take a generation to fix the culture of government dependency.
"Fathers need to be teaching their children not to count on the government to take care of them," Graves said.
11:43 a.m. ET - Johnson sarcastically congratulated America for arriving at "European socialism" and blamed the president for "just running for reelection."
11:40 a.m. ET - Freshman Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin said "the left has been depressingly, depressingly successful at creating a culture of entitlement dependency." He went on to cite the number of Americans receiving food stamps and said too many Americans look to government for a false sense of security.
11:35 a.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: Spencer Chretien, a sophomore at the College of William and Mary, drove to CPAC with his school's college Republican group. Wearing a Rick Santorum sticker on his blazer, Chretien said he used to be a fan of former GOP presidential candidate and Rep. Michele Bachmann, but he recently became a supporter of the former Pennsylvania senator.
"He's the most conservative candidate," he said of Santorum, quickly adding that he doesn't like Newt Gingrich. "Newt would cost us House and Senate seats. He's highly erratic."
11:25 a.m. ET - Registration lines are starting to thin. Some attendees stood in line for more than one hour Thursday morning.
11:19 a.m. ET - Lee, a freshman senator who was elected in 2010 with support from the tea party movement, said he has been "disgusted" with more established representatives, who he said are content to increase the size of government and interfere in the day-to-day lives of Americans.
11:16 a.m. ET - Sen. Mike Lee of Utah announced his latest Senate endorsements from the CPAC stage: Sarah Steelman, who's running in Missouri and Clark Durant, who's running in Michigan. Durant is running against former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, among others, in the Republican primary to unseat incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow.
11:15 a.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: HSP Direct is selling official Rick Santorum sweater vests at $50 each. They have sold six in the last hour and hope to sell 250 this weekend. Only color available is navy blue.
11:04 a.m. ET - Rubio said the 2012 election is not between a "person we like and a person we don't" or between a Democrat and Republican, but between "someone who has failed ... and a change in direction."
"The stakes, I can't imagine them being any higher," he added.
11:01 a.m. - @PeterHambyCNN: most people at CPAC opt for suits and ties, but there's a fella here wearing a Tebow jersey
10:57 a.m. ET - @AdamATCNN: We need a CPAC glossary – Teleprompter: noun; Shorthand for 'the president may talk nice but he hasn't accomplished anything'
10:53 a.m. ET - Campaign buttons on sale at CPAC.
10:49 a.m. ET - Without economic reform, Rubio said the troubles in Europe will plague America.
"That's our future ... It is coming, we know that," Rubio said, unless the U.S. is able to strengthen the economy, government and its people.
10:45 a.m. ET - Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida criticized President Barack Obama and Democrats at the top of his address to the crowd. He said Republican primary fights are usually about who is most like Ronald Reagan, whereas Democrats "never fight about who's more like Jimmy Carter," a reference to the former Democratic president.
9:51 a.m. ET - @KilloughCNN reports: Former presidential candidate Herman Cain gave interviews in front of his bus, promoting his so-called solutions revolution. "It's time for another revolution. This time, it won't have bombs and bullets, but brains and balance." See the bus here.
9:47 a.m. ET - @PeterHambyCNN: CPAC panel this afternoon: "Conservative dating," moderated by Professional Dating Coach Wayne Elise. "Open to Conservative Singles."
9:40 p.m. ET - DeMint compared Republicans working with Democrats to the New England Patriots working with the New York Giants. He said compromise only works when the two teams have shared goals, which the two polititical parties in the U.S. do not.
9:43 a.m. ET - DeMint said the changing landscape in the presidential election is positive because it "scares them all." However, if Democratic Sen. Harry Reid remains majority leader, "it's a waste of a good president."
9:29 a.m. ET - South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint said the conference is "the huddle of the conservative movement ahead of the 2012 elections." The kingmaker said it energizes the party to "take the battle to the other side."FULL STORY