The Conservative Political Action Conference kicks off today, and it promises to be an interesting one, given the crossroads the movement finds itself at. Politico breaks down what to watch thusly:
- The 2012 Presidential Race: Candidates will be test-driving their messages in what’s seen as the first big event of the primary season.
- The Straw Poll: It’s tough to read this early primary barometer, because it’s largely dependent on who bought the most tickets for their supporters. But a surprisingly strong showing from a minor candidate could have big ramifications.
- The Looming Schism: Fiscal and social conservatives are increasingly on edge. CPAC has been criticized for leaning libertarian, and this year several groups and politicians are skipping the conference over the inclusion of the gay conservative group GOProud.
- The Tea Party Takeover: The schedule is dotted with speeches from Tea Party figures, including activists and a variety of freshmen congressmen. But some activists are staying away. “CPAC is so Republican, and we’re not about being Republican,” explains a coordinator for the Tea Party Patriots umbrella group.
- Obama’s Presence: Conservatives have banded together against Obama, but is their vitriol fading in the wake of their midterm triumph? Some believe it's time for a more positive message. “We crushed him. He’s only half his previous size,” says Grover Norquist. “He’s not scary anymore.”
(Read more CPAC