THE MORNING LINE -- February 10, 2012 at 9:46 AM EDT
Romney Faces Conservative Test at CPAC
Mitt Romney's book is for sale at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC. Photo By Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call.
We are coming to you live from the Marriott Wardman Park hotel in Washington, D.C., where Day 2 of the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference is underway and where Republican presidential contenders Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich will speak Friday.
Four years ago this is where Romney ended his presidential campaign. Friday, he hopes to give his current White House bid a jolt after Santorum's sweep of the contests in Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri zapped the front-runner momentum he gained after wins in Florida and Nevada.
Romney previewed his CPAC remarks in an interview Thursday night with Fox News. The former Massachusetts governor was pressed by host Sean Hannity to explain his inability to "close the deal" with conservative voters.
"First of all, I'd note that I won among conservatives in New Hampshire. I won solidly among conservatives in Florida, won among conservatives in Nevada, and have the most delegates in this race. So, I wouldn't say that I haven't been able to get good support from conservatives," Romney said.
Romney also indicated he would describe his record as governor and point out some of the things that "get hidden over time." He said that would include his economic record, but also his handling of social issues, such as a contraception controversy similar to the one now taking place on the national stage.
"The legislature passed a bill for a morning after pill, insisted that Catholic churches provide this to their employees and universities and hospitals," Romney said. "I vetoed that bill. I was one of those that stood up and fought against the intrusion on religious liberty in my state."
Romney also said he "led the charge" to reverse the Massachusetts state Supreme Court's decision allowing for same-sex marriage.
"I have a record of being a strong conservative on the issues that matter, and I'll point that out to my friends at CPAC," Romney said.
In 2008, Romney was seen as the conservative alternative to then-front-runner and eventual GOP nominee Sen. John McCain. Now it appears conservatives are searching for an alternative to him.
Click here to look back at the NewsHour's coverage of the 2008 conference. Make particular note of two CPAC attendees' reaction to the news that Romney was dropping out of the race:
CONFERENCE ATTENDEE: I'm devastated, and I'm on the verge of tears right now.
CORINA PYSA, Romney Supporter: This is just really disappointing. There is no conservative candidate in the race anymore, and Romney, he was our hope for us.
This time around, Romney's path back into conservatives' hearts may be to convince them that he remains their best hope of defeating President Obama.
While much has been made about the difference between Romney's 2008 appearance and his impending 2012 go-around Friday, it's also worth looking back at last year's CPAC, which served as the first cattle call of the 2012 campaign. Click here for the NewsHour's recap of the 2011 gathering.
CPAC DAY ONE
NewsHour politics desk assistant Alex Bruns was at CPAC on Thursday and noted that the opening of the three-day event seemed to offer something for everyone -- from a "State of the United States Senate" address by Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to a conservative-focused dating symposium put on by TheTeaParty.net.
Former presidential candidate Herman Cain drew what seemed to be the largest crowd of the day as supporters stood in the aisles to hear the former Godfather's Pizza chief executive tout his familiar 9-9-9 plan and announce his support for the congressional campaign of Samuel "Joe the Plumber" Wurzelbacher in Ohio.
The downstairs exhibition hall at the Marriott Wardman Park featured hundreds of conservative-themed booths with attendees passing out fliers and standard convention wares.
The speakers offered some creative attacks on President Obama.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry brought the ballroom crowd to its feet when he told supporters, "If it's halftime in America, I'm fearful of what the final score's gonna be if we let this president start the second half at quarterback."
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., hit Mr. Obama the hardest, asking rhetorically if the president "hates rich people." Paul provided a response to his own question by answering, "The president doesn't really hate all rich people, just those who don't contribute to his campaign."
The Obama administration -- and possibly the president himself -- is expected Friday to address a new contraception rule requiring religious organizations to provide employees with health insurance that covers birth control, which has drawn the ire of Catholic bishops, Republican lawmakers and even some Democrats.
The move, based on state models, will almost certainly not satisfy bishops and other religious leaders since it will preserve the goal of women employees having their birth control fully covered by health insurance.
Sources say it will be respectful of religious beliefs but will not back off from that goal, which many religious leaders oppose since birth control is in violation of their religious beliefs.
The administration has found itself doing a bit of a tight-rope act on the contraception decision, trying to balance concerns raised by Catholic leaders, who argue the mandate infringes on their First Amendment right to religious freedom, with those of others who contend the policy is vital to women's health.
Politico and the New York Times each looked at the political response from Catholic bishops to the Obama administration's decision to require religious-affiliated hospitals and universities provide free contraception to employees.
Glenn Thrush and Carrie Budoff Brown write for Politico about how the president was boxed in on the issue after former White House chief of staff William Daley orchestrated an Oval Office meeting for himself, Mr. Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
Laurie Goodstein of the New York Times, meanwhile, details how the bishops were ready to respond once the administration announced its decision last year to move forward with the mandate.
2012 LINE ITEMS
The Washington Post's Felicia Sonmez notes that Texas Rep. Ron Paul is not attending this year's CPAC, citing "travel constraints." Paul has not held a public campaign event since a caucus night rally Tuesday in Minnesota.
Foster Friess, the man funding the pro-Santorum Red, White and Blue Fund super PAC, told Bloomberg Television he doesn't think his money is going to be necessary because Santorum is giving "an inspirational speech that is resonating very well" with donors. He said that he hasn't had to do outreach for Santorum. Watch the interview here.
"The nice thing is I have not even reached out. I got word from the Red White and Blue Fund that some guy sent in a million dollars. We had no idea who he was. We got word two days ago that he's going to send in some more. But they are coming in unsolicited and the neat thing about the Red White and Blue fund is that people can give unlimited amounts whereas to the campaign, they can only give $2,500," Friess said.
Can't believe it was 5 years ago today that Pres Obama announced for President. I remember that historic freezing day like it was yesterday— Dan Pfeiffer (@pfeiffer44) February 10, 2012
OUTSIDE THE LINES
The Washington Post reported that Rep. Spencer Bachus, an influential Alabama Republican who serves as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee is under investigation by the Office of Congressional Ethics for possible violations of insider-trading laws. The Post notes the case "is the first of its kind involving a member of Congress." Bachus "has been a frequent trader on Capitol Hill, buying stock options while overseeing the nation's banking and financial services industries," the Post reported.
The House of Representatives approved ethics legislation Thursday that prohibits insider trading by lawmakers and congressional staff members. Republicans leaders stripped a number of key provisions from the measure, including one that would have increased oversight of the "political intelligence" industry, reports the Washington Post's Paul Kane. The House version must now be reconciled with a tougher Senate proposal that passed last week.
Meanwhile, the Wall Street Journal reports on "a growing, lucrative -- and legal -- practice in Washington that employs a network of brokers, lobbyists and political insiders who arrange private meetings between hedge funds and officials, including lawmakers and their aides" to get early word about upcoming government action.
The Hill's Keith Laing reports Thursday that House speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, expressed uncertainty about passage of the $260 billion transportation bill.
Former Alaska Senate candidate Joe Miller, in Washington for CPAC, tells Politico's David Catanese that he's keeping his options open when it comes to challenging Democratic Sen. Mark Begich in 2014.
Joseph Kennedy III moves, signaling he may run for retiring Rep. Barney Frank's seat.
Roll Call's Abby Livingston writes that former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords asked her aide Ron Barber to run for her seat in Congress.
Nancy Pelosi has some fun with Stephen Colbert.
ON THE TRAIL
All events are listed in Eastern Time.
Mitt Romney delivers remarks at the Northern Virginia Technology Council/CEA Presidential Series in Reston, Va., at 7:45 a.m., addresses CPAC at 12:40 p.m. and holds a town hall in Portland, Maine, at 5:15 p.m.
Rick Santorum addresses CPAC at 10:25 a.m.
Newt Gingrich addresses CPAC at 4:10 p.m.
Ron Paul has no public events scheduled.
All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:
For more political coverage, visit our politics page.
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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.