Friday, February 19, 2010

Conservatives revel, and clash, at CPAC conference

Energized by an increasingly favorable political environment, the nation's conservatives gathered here Thursday speaking optimistically of seizing control this year of Congress and, ultimately, the White House. But finding the fault lines beneath the message wasn't difficult. All one had to do was walk around the corner. As a crowd stood in a hotel ballroom to applaud former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a onetime presidential candidate who sounds like he is preparing for another run, a conservative Senate candidate in a neighboring room was talking about the enemy, and he didn't mean Democrats. "The threat isn't always from the organized left," warned J.D. Hayworth, a former congressman running in Arizona's GOP primary against Sen. John McCain. Despite all the enthusiasm among Republicans watching the struggles of the Obama administration and Democrats in Congress, the three-day meeting here of the Conservative Political Action Conference is a reminder that the GOP's house is also not in order. Though the party is trying to tap into the vibrancy of the growing anti-government "tea party" movement, mainstream Republicans fret that they could become victims of anti-incumbent fever, or that their difficult primary fights could end up benefiting more

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