CPAC's theme this year is "America's Future: The Next Generation of Conservatives." Which must be pretty awkward for Mitt Romney, who will be speaking there today, given that he's neither, Politico points out. Romney will be given only 15 minutes to speak, and the prospect of his address is being met with towering indifference. "He's kind of last year," one former New Hampshire state legislator says. "I'm ready for some new blood."
Romney has won the CPAC straw poll the last six years in a row, and an adviser says he's speaking at all to "express his appreciation for all that support." CPAC chair Al Cardenas says he encouraged Romney to come; "You gotta peek at the past if you want to be smart about the future." But most attendees shrug when asked about him, and Rick Perry even took a shot at him in his speech yesterday, saying Republicans hadn't nominated a true conservative. Rand Paul, meanwhile, offered a more subtle rebuke to the old guard in general. "The GOP has grown stale and moss-covered," he said. "I don't think we need to name any names, do we?" (The Washington Post thinks he had John McCain in mind, probably in reaction to this.)