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Conservatives showcase diversity and divisions at annual CPAC rally (+video)

The speaker list tells the tale: Star Sens.Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rand Paul are IN. Sarah Palin and Mitt Romney also get to speak. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie didn't get an invite.

By Staff writer / March 14, 2013

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney waves to supporters at an election night rally in Boston, where he conceded the race to President Obama on Nov. 7. He is to deliver his first post-election speech at Washington’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

Stephan Savoia/AP/File

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WASHINGTON

Republicans are holding their breath Thursday at the start of the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, the big annual Washington gathering that is expected to air divisions within the GOP four months after President Obama’s reelection.

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Monitor correspondent Liz Marlantes discusses the line-up of conservative speakers at this year's CPAC.

The roster of speakers tells the story: From movement-conservative keynote speaker Ted Cruz, the outspoken new Republican senator from Texas, to libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky and Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida, an establishment favorite, different strains of conservative thought will be on full display.

Other speakers will shift the focus to the recent, uncomfortable past. Mitt Romney, not a beloved figure in conservative circles, will make his first public address since losing to Mr. Obama last fall. And Sarah Palin, the GOP’s vice presidential nominee in 2008, will return to the spotlight after her recent split with Fox News.

Then, there are the non-invitees. Govs. Chris Christie (R) of New Jersey and Bob McDonnell (R) of Virginia have both run afoul of party orthodoxy in recent months and were snubbed by CPAC organizers. Governor Christie, the most popular Republican in the country, was seen as working a bit too closely with Obama in the wake of hurricane Sandy. Governor McDonnell recently backed tax increases as part of a state transportation bill. Also excluded was the gay Republican activist group GOProud.

“For a party seeking to rebrand and expand its tent, CPAC couldn’t come at a worse time,” says Republican strategist Ford O’Connell.

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