Like my colleagues, I've spent the past couple days at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), the nation's largest gathering of conservative activists. A few random thoughts:
1. There is a heavy Rick Santorum presence this year. His mometum with conservative activists is still noticeable. I'll be surprised if he doesn't win the straw poll.
2. Ron Paul, by contrast, does not have a large presence here this year despite winning the last two straw polls. Paul is the only major Republican presidential candidate who didn't address CPAC. The wisdom of this decision will be evaluated in large part based on how well he does in Maine.
3. Newt Gingrich gave a good speech touting his (and the private sector's) ability to accomplish seemingly unrealistic goals. His promotional material photo also highlights his prominent conservative backers. We'll see what that does for him in the straw poll.
4. One of those backers, ex-candidate Herman Cain, got a great reception during his address. The failed presidential run has raised his profile as a conservative figure.
5. Talking to attendees, there is a lot of concern about whether the eventual Republican nominee will actually beat Barack Obama. People don't exactly expect Obama to win, but there is some nervousness.