It’s always a big deal, but CPAC takes on new significance this year as Republicans try to sort through a bumper crop of presidential contenders. And they will all, with the exception of Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, make the trip to Prince George’s County, Md. to audition for the party’s activist base. Think of it this way: There a two concurrent contests going on in the GOP. One is a fundraising drag race in the first eight months of the year. We’ll see the results as quarterly filing come in. But the other fight is for the hearts and minds of issue-driven activists – social, fiscal, libertarian, national security and even more niche concerns –who propel the party. We’ll know by Saturday who’s in the lead for that prize.
Schlapp-ed – The American Conservative Union, under the leadership of new Chairman Matt Schlapp has rebooted the event, which had in recent years come to cater to the party’s libertarian wing, in favor of the more broad-spectrum Reaganite conservatism that animated the organization at its outset. The response has been dramatic. Moderates (Jeb Bush), social conservatives (Rick Santorum), libertarian leaners (Rand Paul) and defense hawks (Marco Rubio) will all be making their case to attendees and competing in the event’s annual presidential straw poll. And rather than just canned speeches, candidates are consenting to be questioned by conservative opinion-makers like Laura Ingraham, who will be sautéing Gov. Chris Christie, R-N.J., today. Read more in Fox News (external link).