CPAC Kicks Off 2012 GOP Race Contenders vie to define themselves in speeches, straw poll By Kevin Spak, Newser Staff Posted Feb 9, 2011 2:30 PM CST 26 comments Comments In this Feb. 18, 2010 file photo, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen, File) (Newser) – The race to the 2012 GOP presidential nomination begins in earnest tomorrow, when the annual Conservative Political Action Committee shindig kicks off in Washington. Nearly all the party’s hopefuls will be there—with the notable exceptions of Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee—vying both to define themselves against the field and to prevail in the contest’s prestigious straw poll, the New York Times reports. Expect candidates to address the perceived black marks on their resumes—like Mitt Romney’s support for Massachusetts’ health care law, or Newt Gingrich’s support for ethanol subsidies—while marking out their territory on matters of conservative orthodoxy. “It is a chance to brand yourself,” says the president of the American Conservative Union. “The day when we have a perfect candidate—from anyone’s standpoint—is a day we’re never going to see.” For background on CPAC, click here.