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CPAC 2012: Live Updates From The Conservative Political Action Conference

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The 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) begins on Thursday in the nation's capital.

Candidates competing for the Republican presidential nomination are delivering speeches at the annual event. Big conservative names like U.S. Sens. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are also taking part in the conservative gathering.

Sarah Palin will deliver the keynote address at CPAC on Saturday night. The results of the event's straw poll will be announced the same evening.

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul placed first in the straw poll the past two years. He will not attend CPAC this year.

Check out the live blog below for the latest developments at CPAC.

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A convincing Sarah Palin impersonator, sitting in the Woodley Park Noodes & Co. near the hotel hosting CPAC, said she will not endorse Newt Gingrich during Sarah Palin's speech here later today -- because, in fact, she is not (as reporters learned afterward) Sarah Palin.

The woman, who calls herself "the world's premier Sarah Palin impressionist," winked and used a folksy voice while discussing the need for the political process to work its course before she endorsed. "It's cold here in Washington!" she said, then stammering, "And Alaska."

-- Elise Foley

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@ jameshohmann : 100+ people crowd around Sarah Palin to try posing for photos in a dark corner of #CPAC http://t.co/ImDSeSOI

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@ BuddyRoemer : Sadly, I was not invited. “@AlexYudelson: @BuddyRoemer I voted for you in the #CPAC2012 straw poll! Will you be at #CPAC?"

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WASHINGTON -- Republican Tucker Carlson and Democrat Paul Begala went head-to-head on Saturday, ending with a word-association game moderated by Thomas McDevitt, president of The Washington Times. Spoiler: Carlson's answers went over better with the CPAC crowd.

"The winner, by decision is -- well everyone watching knows, really, who won," McDevitt said at the end of the panel.

Here are a few of the exchanges based on the terms they were asked to discuss:

Internal Revenue Service

Carlson: Authoritarianism.

Begala: Necessary.

Audience: Boo.

Tucker: I thought you were going to go with 'beloved.'

Rich people

Carlson: Something I'd like to be.

Poor people

Carlson: Something I'd rather not be.

Ronald Reagan

Begala: Too liberal for CPAC. Signed a therapeutic abortion act, signed amnesty for illegal aliens ...

Carlson: Freaking awesome, really.

Barack Obama

Begala: Greatest president of the 21st Century.

Carlson: It's hard to sum up my manifold feelings about the president, but I would say "turning point."

Rick

Begala: Oops.

Carlson: Undervalued, I think.

Begala: I was thinking Perry, oh, Santorum. If it's Santorum, I would say man-on-dog or Google or something.

Mitt

Begala: Loser.

Carlson: President.

-- Elise Foley

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WASHINGTON -- It wasn't the showdown that it could have been, but a speaker on an immigration panelist at CPAC was booed by the crowd on Saturday for saying undocumented immigrants stay without authorization for a reason.

"Navigating out immigration is like the DMV," Alex Nowrasteh said on the panel, adding that it's "no wonder" that not everyone uses the legal immigration system because it takes years.

Some people waiting to move to the United States from the Philippines based on sponsorships from their siblings, for example, are allowed to enter this year after waiting since 1988.

He went on to say Reagan's view on immigration, which included granting amnesty to the undocumented immigrants in the country at that time, was the best one -- something that nearly all Republican candidates strongly oppose, a divergence for their general support for all views Reagan-related.

"Reagan's vision is how conservatives, I think, should see it and I think do in our hearts," Nowrasteh said.

Many audience members seemed to disagree, booing the speaker for those comments. The moderator asked them after he finished speaking to be respectful to all panelists regardless of their views.

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.), the other panelist who might have argued for immigration reform to give status to some undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, was a no-show at the event.

-- Elise Foley

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Niger Innis, spokesperson for the Congress of Racial Equality, asked the ladies of CPAC to cover their ears on Saturday so that he could talk about how demographics of a state are changed.

"The demographic changes taking place in my adopted state of Nevada did not take place on the border," he said at a panel on immigration and border security. "It took place in the bedroom."

It was unclear how Innis wanted those demographics to change, although the statement was made after he listed the changes in the demographics of Nevada from 2000 to 2008 -- a period when the white population dropped from about 65 percent to 55 percent, the Latino population increased from about 20 percent to about 27 percent, and the Black population stayed about the same.

"As conservatives we have to be pragmatic with our policy," he said, adding that the Republican Party should avoid alienating non-whites if it does not want to "go the way of the Whig Party."

-- Elise Foley

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WASHINGTON -- Kris Kobach said on Saturday that he isn't sure whether he supports Mitt Romney's view that undocumented people who want to join the military should be allowed to stay in the United States.

For that matter, Kobach said he isn't sure what Romney's view is exactly, because the candidate has seldom mentioned it and not put forth a specific plan.

"I'd have to see how it was framed," he told HuffPost. "He just said it in broad concept, in fact I think what happened is Newt Gingrich said it and then Romney said, 'I agree with that.'"

Kobach was referring to the statement Romney made after Gingrich said at a Jan. 23 debate in Florida that he would support what amounts to a watered-down Dream Act (and shortly after advisers told Romney to soften his immigration message). Such a bill as proposed by Gingrich -- and seconded by Romney -- would allow some young people who entered the United States as children to stay if they joined the military, but not if they attended college, a provision in the Congressional version of the Dream Act, which Romney has promised to veto.

"I'd just note that's the same position that I have, and that's that I wouldn't sign the Dream Act as it currently exists, but I would sign the Dream Act if it were focused on military service," Romney said then, interrupting Gingrich, who said he wouldn't necessarily veto a Dream Act bill.

Kobach emphasized that such a model wouldn't lead to as much "amnesty" as the current version of the Dream Act, because there are more undocumented immigrants who want to attend college than who want to join the military.

More important, he said, are Romney's views on attrition through enforcement, or "self-deportation," which the candidate discussed during the same Florida debate. That is a central tenet of Kobach-led bills such as Arizona's SB 1070, which aim to increase enforcement to the point that undocumented immigrants decide to leave the state.

During the panel on Saturday, Kobach said that self-deportation is not what the Left paints it to be: an attempt to deport all of the undocumented immigrants in the country.

"If you want a job for a U.S. citizen tomorrow, deport an illegal alien today," he said.

Kobach told reporters after the panel that Romney does not necessarily need to soften his rhetoric on immigration to avoid alienating Latino voters, calling that idea "incorrect" and "somewhat racist" because it assumes all Hispanic voters oppose immigration enforcement.

That puts Kobach somewhat at odds with some other Romney advisers, who have encouraged him to avoid discussing immigration with tough rhetoric, in part because it can turn off Latinos who know undocumented immigrants. (As many as half of Latinos know someone who is undocumented, according to a July 2011 poll from Latino Decisions.)

Still, Kobach said that there are a number of viewpoints on how Republicans should handle the issue of immigration, and that being clear about their positions is important so they cannot be misconstrued.

"Standing for the rule of law is not an unpopular stance," he told reporters, "but it is absolutely true that Republicans and conservatives need to be very clear about the reasons we are taking our stand."

-- Elise Foley

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DCist reports that "conservative blog mogul" Andrew Breitbart, stepped outside CPAC and screamed at the activists, calling them "freaks and animals."

Campus Progress has video of Breitbart going manic:

-- Jason Cherkis

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WASHINGTON -- While Newt Gingrich was speaking in the ballroom at CPAC, in the halls outside a rowdy group of Mitt Romney supporters marched around the conference hotel excitedly chanting in favor of their candidate. There was a smattering of Gingrich and Rick Santorum supporters, but they were far less organized and their attempts to chant "Flip! Flop!" were quickly drowned out.

The crowd was mostly college students, with a couple of campaign staffers orchestrating. Raymond Jozwiak, the vice president of the College Republicans at Allegheny College, was one of the enthusiastic Romney supporters. He told The Huffington Post that a large number of the students were from his school and the University of Pittsburgh. Many others seemed to have simply seen the commotion and joined.

Another student said that he was a member of his school's College Republicans group, and that while CPAC was happening, someone had sent an email calling for help from Romney supporters.

The crowd formed a sort of tunnel outside the ballroom, so that when Gingrich supporters emerged, they would have to walk by rows of Romney signs. The Romney demonstrators then walked around the first floor of the hotel, chanting and waving signs the whole time. Jozwiak estimated they did this for at least 20 minutes.

WATCH:

Three young men who were all of different political opinions asserted that the Republican Party would unite behind the GOP presidential nominee, whoever it is. Jamie Falcon is a Romney supporter, Eric Garthoffer is backing Gingrich and Jason Garthoffer (Eric's brother) is still undecided. A photo showing their harmony:



-- Amanda Terkel

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@ mollyesque : Note: Callista said Newt "golfs the way he does everything." Then Newt said he was a "very bad golfer." #cpac

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@ AlexNBCNews : Newt: For Republican establishment, managing the decay is preferable to changing the trajectory bc requires real fight & roll up sleeves

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@ jonward11 : Callista: "Newt is an enthusiastic and committed golfer. It's true. He gets in and out of more sand traps than anyone I have ever seen."

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Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who recently announced that he would run for re-election in a more heavily Republican district than the one he currently represents, spoke Friday at CPAC.

"Today, as a conservative black Republican and former soldier, I'm here to set that record straight," he said.

"Will we stumble blindly down the road to the bureaucratic nanny state or will we re-dedicate ourselves to founding values?" he asked. "It is the fundamental difference."

He said that conservatives care about the poor. "Of course we have compassion, but we don't believe the safety net should be used as a hammock," he said.

"We also realize that the public good is a misnomer, created by our liberal friends," he said. "It is not the public good that matters, it is the personal good."

--Luke Johnson

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The Romney campaign sent out their candidate's prepared remarks midway through his speech to CPAC. He diverted from the text numerous times, so this is not an exact transcript:

This year, here at CPAC, we've got a great crowd. It's been a great conference. For that I suppose we should acknowledge President Obama, the conservative movement's top recruiter. Turns out, he really is a great community organizer. Although, I don't think we were the community he had in mind.

Today we are poised for a great victory in November. The pundits and the pollsters tell us we can win this election. But we must tell the nation why we should win. It is up to us to prove that we are truly ready to step forward and lead this country. This election is not just about getting more votes. Defeating Barack Obama is only one step toward our greater goal of saving America.

Of course we can defeat Barack Obama! That's the easy part! Believe me, November 6th will be the easiest day our next President will face.

This country we love is in jeopardy. It's more than the economic statistics we read, it's the pain we feel in our hearts. For three years we have suffered through the failures not only of a weak leader, but of a bankrupt ideology. I am convinced that if we do our job, if we lead with conviction and integrity, that history will record the Obama Presidency as the last gasp of liberalism's great failure and a turning point for a new conservative era.

But it's not enough to show how they have failed. We must prove we deserve to lead. I am here today to ask you to stand with me shoulder to shoulder as we go forward to fight for America.

-- Jon Ward

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Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, promised that gun owners will prevent Obama from winning a second term, even if the media tries to prevent it.

Why? Because Obama, without a doubt, will spend a second term on a "full-scale regulatory war on gun rights," LaPierre told a crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference. Although Obama has spent very little time -- too little, according to many gun regulation advocates -- pushing for restrictions on gun rights, groups like the NRA maintain that one of the president's top priorities is to dismantle the right to bear arms.

"If Obama wins reelection, he'll likely appoint one, perhaps three more Supreme Court justices ... end of our freedom forever, and that is a fact," he said.

Obama's methods have been sneaky, but clear, LaPierre implied. The president appointed two of what LaPierre called extremely anti-gun rights Supreme Court justices, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He argued that those two justices, the Fast and Furious program, the United Nations and executive orders will help to end gun rights.

-- Elise Foley

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Former Sen. Rick Santorum said on Friday afternoon that he was not persuaded by the Obama administration's revisions of rules requiring religious institutions to cover contraception as part of their workers' health care plans.

Speaking less than two hours after the president said he would give those institutions a way to exempt themselves from the policy, allowing them to punt the coverage straight to the insurance company, The Huffington Post asked Santorum whether he was placated.

"No," he replied, "not at all."

Santorum, of course, isn't the type of person that the president is likely to persuade on topics of contraception coverage. The former Pennsylvania senator is a renowned culture warrior, who has risen back to the top of the Republican primary polls by appealing to social issues. Elaborating on why he opposed the revised version of the Obama contraception rule, he explained that he didn't believe insurance companies should cover contraception at all.

"This has nothing to do with access," he said. "This is having someone pay for it, pay for something that shouldn't even be in an insurance plan anyway because it is not, really an insurable item. This is something that is affordable, available. You don't need insurance for these types of relatively small expenditures. This is simply someone trying to impose their values on somebody else, with the arm of the government doing so. That should offend everybody, people of faith and no faith that the government could get on a roll that is that aggressive."

Birth control can be readily available, sometimes on the cheap, for many women. But for a good portion of them, it's neither. Moreover, roughly 14 percent of all birth control prescriptions are written for reasons other than contraception, including ovarian cancer, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, and endometrial cancer. The Huffington Post profiled one illustrative case of the benefits of insurance-covered birth control earlier on Friday.

-- Sam Stein

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Video below show by HuffPost's Brad Shannon. Warning, some vulgar language:

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As leading figures in the conservative movement meet inside at the Marriott Wardman Park, several hundred Occupy protesters have gathered outside, holding signs, chanting and setting up a few tents at the bottom of the hotel's winding driveway.

But as protesters began marching up the driveway shortly after noon Friday, several Washington D.C. police officers impeded their path and instructed protesters -- and members of the media -- that they needed to move back. Police said the driveway was private property and that those still on it risked arrest. The protesters began moving back down the driveway as CPAC attendees watched from the sidelines.

An SEIU spokesman told The Huffington Post that there are 600 protesters on hand, including 300 unemployed workers from the D.C. area. The protest is scheduled to last until 2 p.m.

-- Michael Calderone

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As many speakers attempt to rile up a conservative base at the Conservative Political Action Conference by talking about undocumented immigrants and deportation, some panelists pleaded for a more measured approach on the issue to avoid alienating Latino voters.

If conservatives want to win, they need to appeal to minority voters, many of whom have not been targeted by the Republican Party in the past, the panelists said.

The proportion of the Hispanic vote that went to Republicans fell by more than 10 points between the 2000 and 2008 presidential elections, and many strategists say GOP candidates must receive at least 40 percent of the Latino vote to win elections. And the number of Latinos in the United States is growing rapidly, making reaching out to them even more important for both parties.

Part of the effort is organizing among Latino voters, particularly young people who may still be forming party preferences, Hispanic vote leaders said at a panel on Republican inclusiveness.

"We have to put skin in the game," Manuel Rosales, national chairman of the Latino National Republican Coalition, told the room of CPAC attendees.

Immigration rhetoric also factors into the effort, Rosales said. He told HuffPost after the panel that immigration is an emotional issue for many Latinos because they likely know someone who is undocumented and feel sympathy toward the person. That means it is important to deal with the issue, possibly with a plan that allows some undocumented people with longstanding ties to the United States to stay under work visas -- a solution also proposed by presidential candidate Newt Gingrich.

The panelists also discussed how the Republican Party can reach out to black Americans, who have been largely ignored by the GOP establishment. Kevin Daniels, president of the Frederick Douglass Foundation of North Carolina, said his organization is working toward that cause.

Mia Love, a congressional candidate and current mayor of Saratoga Springs, Utah, spoke briefly to the crowd, talking about the conservative views instilled in her by her parents, immigrants from Haiti.

"Democrats say I'm not supposed to exist" as a Republican black woman, she said. "I'm not supposed to exist, but I do exist. We exist."

-- Elise Foley

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@ ZekeJMiller : Romney on Obama: He is the conservative movement’s top recruiter — it turns out he’s a really good community organizer

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Ann Coulter is provocative and offensive and wonderful at self-promotion. And if it weren't for all those attributes, she could very well claim a fourth: an effective surrogate for Mitt Romney.

The conservative best-selling author gave her usual speech at CPAC on Friday. Instead of calling John Edwards a "faggot" (like she did years ago), she declared that Bill Clinton saved the Constitution by repeatedly ejaculating on White House interns. It was a stupid laugh line really not worth repeating, save for pointing out how likely it is to overshadow the impassioned plea she made earlier in the speech to get the crowd to drop its revulsion of Romney.

"You know how [Democrats] are going to run against our candidate because it is the only way that they run against any Republican: call them dumb or stupid. And there is one presidential candidate we have right now who frustrates both of those. That is Mitt Romney," said Coulter. "You can't call him dumb. You can't call him crazy. You can call him square. And that seems to be what a lot of right-wingers don't like about him."

"You ask them what is it," she went on. "'Well, he's kind of a Ken doll, sort of stiff.' I think we have had enough of hip. Hip has nearly wrecked the country. Let's try square for a while."

The crowd cheered wildly. This was a broad case for backing the former Massachusetts Governor. But even when the questions turned to the specifics, Coulter seemed well equipped to make the pro-Romney case.

How can he be entrusted to repeal President Obama's health care law when the one he passed in Massachusetts was so similar, someone asked.

"He has been clear and forceful on that from the beginning" that he wants full repeal, Coulter said. "If you can't believe that you might as well speculate: what if Obama starts reading Milton Friedman and becomes a free marketer. Yeah, I guess it could happen."

Romney, she went on, had the "strongest position on illegal immigration," which she called the second-most important issue. From there, she pivoted to all the failed Tea Party candidates the party ran in Senate races in 2010. Newt Gingrich, she argued, was not more conservative than Romney. Moreover, it really wasn't the right election to mess around.

"This is the future of the country," said Coulter. "This is no time to be, 'Oh, try this.'"

These are effective points, delivered by someone who is truly part of the conservative movement. Moments later, however, Coulter had begun making lewd Clinton jokes that sounded like the ones told fifteen years ago.

-- Sam Stein

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@ ryanjreilly : Protestors on the scene at #CPAC2012 http://t.co/WJ67E8lm

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@ AlexPappasDC : Ann Coulter at CPAC says Obama has been getting worse and Romney is "getting better"

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According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, "Candidate Walmart" will be declaring "his" run for president at CPAC early this afternoon. Making Change at Walmart, a UFCW group that pressures Walmart over worker issues, created "Candidate Walmart" in part to satirize the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, the 2010 ruling that forbids the government from capping individual spending by corporations and unions in political campaigns.

The UFCW's Amber Sparks writes in an email: "Candidate Walmart -- a corporation running for president because after all, corporations are people! SCOTUS says so -- is going to be publicly announcing his candidacy at CPAC today at 1:00 pm."

According to "his" official website, Candidate Walmart was "born from humble beginnings" and "opened his first store in Rogers, Arkansas on July 2nd, 1962. Over time, the company would grow from a single store to the largest corporation in the entire country."

The declaration by Candidate Walmart will coincide with an anti-CPAC demonstration organized by OccupyDC and several labor unions.

-- Dave Jamieson

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@ elise_foley : Woman (not media) called Alinsky-like for asking about the Muslim Brotherhood at GOP inclusiveness panel, audience tell her to leave

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Making its way around the CPAC conference is what appears to be the schedule for Friday. At 9:00 a.m., former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is speaking. At 10:10 a.m., there's Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R). But then at 10:25 a.m. there's Rick Santorum with a speech titled, "In Defense of Big Labor." And what's with Mitt Romney at 12:55 p.m., labeled the "author of Obamneycare"? Right-wing pundit, Ann Coulter, who has defended Romney and his Massachusetts health care reform, also has her speech titled, "Three Cheers for Romneycare!"

The schedule is a clever flyer by the Gingrich campaign, as noted by the "Paid for by Newt 2012" line at the very bottom.

On the back of the flyer is a chart of all the candidates, making the case that Gingrich represents "real change."

Gingrich is the only candidate with an official booth in the exhibition hall. Santorum appears to have a small display set up, but it's actually a boooth for HSP Direct, which runs the Santorum campaign's direct-mail operation. An HSP representative told The Huffington Post that the booth was doing double-duty for Santorum and their own company.

View the flyer and click for a larger version:



-- Amanda Terkel

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Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) spoke mostly on the broad themes of the American dream and conservative governance, but at the end of his speech he discussed his endorsement of Mitt Romney.

McDonnell, chairman of the Republican Governor's Assocation, spoke about recently elected GOP governors. "You look at what [Wisconsin Governor] Scott Walker's doing -- isn't he a standup guy?" he said to huge applause. He later mentioned New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Florida Gov. Rick Scott and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. "I've got a goal to bump up those numbers dramatically," he said.

"That's why I'm strongly supporting Mitt Romney for president, because I believe he's a results-oriented conservative," he said, touting Romney's experience as Massachusetts governor.

Romney hasn't gotten much attention thus far in CPAC speeches -- he's slated to speak later today. However, Herman Cain and Rick Perry, who both endorsed Newt Gingrich, did not even mention him in their speeches Thursday.

--Luke Johnson

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@ maggiepolitico : Santorum: "i'm asking you to put your honor on the line."

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WASHINGTON - When Rick Santorum walked on stage here at the annual confab for conservative activists, the massive hall was packed to the gills, and conference attendees lined the halls unable to get in to see the former Pennsylvania senator's speech.

The audience rose to its feet and gave Santorum -- who is resurgent in the Republican presidential primary following his victories in three primary states on Tuesday -- a rousing greeting. It was an extended standing ovation from the crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference, but not an overwhelming one.

Santorum, who had his wife and five of his seven children with him on stage, wasted no time in drawing contrasts between himself and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, telling the crowd that Republicans should not settle for a candidate whose argument is that the party "need[s] to compromise" and "do what's politically reasonable and go out and push someone forward who can win."

"We will no longer abandon and apologize for the policies and principles that made this country great for a hollow victory in November," Santorum said.

He also told the crowd the he was the candidate who was a true and authentic conservative, another subtle dig at Romney.

"I know you and you know me, and that's important," Santorum said.

Santorum spoke just under two hours before Romney was scheduled to address the conference. Romney is the favored candidate in the race, but he has been set back by an inability to win over large swaths of the GOP's most conservative voters in Iowa, South Carolina, Minnesota, Colorado and Missouri.

A few minutes before Santorum's speech, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) told the crowd why he has endorsed Romney. Some in the audience applauded, but the positive response came from a small portion of those in the hall.

-- Jon Ward

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@ MarcACaputo : Rick Santorum on the Mitt Romney GOP puzzle: 'Why would an independent vote for a candidate from a party that the party's not excited about'

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