The just-concluded Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) demonstrated that conservatives can rally yet disagree, the Washington Post reported.
Anti-tax activist Grover Norquist summed up the gathering with: "This is where we come together. No one said we'd all agree."
As if to illustrate this point, Mark Krikorian, of the Center for Immigration Studies, said he felt "immigration skeptics" had been "pushed out" of the limelight at the conference, according to the Post.
The conference highlighted differences between establishment Republicans and tea party activists.
"CPAC doesn't make any pretension of speaking for the [Republican] party, but we're seeing these fluid debates and there is no clear consensus," said former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson. "The attitude here is: Let a thousand flowers bloom."
On foreign policy, for instance, hawks like Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former United Nations ambassador John Bolton offered positions very different from those of Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who favors a "defensive" foreign policy.
Paul, who won the CPAC straw poll Saturday, told this year's audience, "We will not trade our liberty for security."
Ben Carson urged Republicans not to trade socially conservative principles for votes, according to the Post – a view echoed by former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Some social issues, such as same-sex marriage, did not receive huge attention, according to the Times. This disappointed Gregory Angelo of Log Cabin Republicans, a gay group.
"We are at a point where the conservative movement and Republicans can no longer keep their head in the sand in this issue," he told the Times.
Many conference attendees said the silence on social issues reflected the relatively little importance conservatives attach to them.
Rather than skirmish on social issues, attendee Jack Gordon said, he'd prefer candidates to focus on the economy.
"The mainstream of people, as is happening in many states, say 'OK,'" Gordon said regarding legalizing same-sex marriage. "Eighty percent or 90 percent of Republicans don't care."
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