Conservative Activists Gather In Washington For a generation, the Conservative Political Action Conference has brought thousands of activists to Washington each year for a pep rally and a chance to hear from movement stars. This year's event is full of optimism over the Tea Party and prospects for 2012.
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Conservative Activists Gather In Washington

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Conservative Activists Gather In Washington

Conservative Activists Gather In Washington

Conservative Activists Gather In Washington

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For a generation, the Conservative Political Action Conference has brought thousands of activists to Washington each year for a pep rally and a chance to hear from movement stars. This year's event is full of optimism over the Tea Party and prospects for 2012.

MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea has our story.

DON GONYEA: If you want evidence of the prominent role the Tea Party is playing at this year's CPAC, pull out the agenda and look at the opening speaker: Representative Michele Bachmann. To call her a Tea Party favorite is an understatement.

MICHELE BACHMANN: So it's a conservative Senate, not just a Republican Senate - can you hear me - a conservative Senate going forward.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

BACHMANN: And the all-important must-have for 2012 is this: Making Barack Obama a one-term president.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: The CPAC conference is sponsored by the American Conservative Union. Its founder and president is David Keene, who says the Tea Party represents new blood the broader conservative movement needs.

DAVID KEENE: Not only do they have all the impact on the elections, but where else would you find millions of people holding up copies of the Constitution? You know, these are obviously people that we wanted.

GONYEA: But this year's CPAC is celebrating not only a new movement but a new moment in American politics, one it sees as a great opportunity for conservatives. That theme ran through speech after speech on this first day, including a lunchtime address by one of the possible Republican presidential candidates, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

NEWT GINGRICH: For those liberals who think 2010 was the peak, oh no, 2010 was the appetizer. 2012 is the entree.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

GONYEA: There's even a boycott of this event by some groups angry that a gay conservative group is one of the co-sponsors. Tom Minnery is affiliated with the group Focus on the Family and says protecting the traditional family, opposing same-sex marriage and abortion, form a foundation for everything else conservatives hope to accomplish.

TOM MINNERY: Yes, we want to see families thrive. That produces highly productive citizens. It reduces poverty.

GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Washington.

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