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Tea Party Freshmen Will Star at Annual Meeting

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Rep. Peter Roskam said members of the GOP freshman class will be valuable additions to the speaking list at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

If youre sitting around talking about the good old days, it means you arent winning, he said.

Of course, CPAC will also feature plenty of familiar names: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), Sen. John Thune (S.D.), Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) are scheduled to speak.

And while possible presidential contenders may not be the main event, several people thought to be considering a run will take the stage, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), Rep. Ron Paul (Texas), former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour.

Noticeably absent from the speaker list is former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who told reporters last week that schedule conflicts would prevent her from attending CPAC.

CPAC has long had its share of controversies, but complaints from conservatives have been particularly pointed this year and several standard-bearers of the movement wont attend.

The decision by CPAC organizers to include GOProud an organization of gay conservative Republicans has outraged social conservatives, who view the groups participation as an implicit acceptance of the rights of gay Americans.

Keene has stood his ground against some Christian leaders who have objected, and groups such as Concerned Women for America and the Family Research Council have decided not to attend.

CPACs inclusion of Suhail Khan, a Muslim conservative involved with the Conservative Inclusion Coalition, has also drawn criticism.

 Conservative activists such as David Horowitz have accused Khan of attempting to undermine the nations judicial system by promoting Sharia law, a conservative Muslim approach to legal and ethical issues. But while his involvement in the conference may upset some conservatives, Horowitz and other critics are scheduled to participate.

Norquist, who has participated in CPAC for decades, dismissed the complaints.

Loser people and loser organizations that havent done any work all year try to get headlines so they can whine about CPAC. They can get a little press. That happens all the time, he said.

Keene takes criticisms from other conservatives in stride, saying as the chief organizer of the meeting part of his job is to be a conservative piñata in the runup to the meeting. Keene brushes off the complaints, saying part of his goal has been to reflect and illustrate over the years the wide diversity of the movement.

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