Zeleny Overdoses on 'Conservatives' in CPAC Preview

Reporter Jeff Zeleny on Wednesday previewed CPAC, the gathering of conservative activists under the auspices of the Conservative Political Action Committee, with an ideologically fraught story, "Conservative Gathering to Test G.O.P. Hopefuls."

Apparently thinking that the word "Conservative" in CPAC wasn't a sufficient giveaway, Zeleny constantly reminded readers he was talking about conservatives, calling the conference a "conservative forum" and a "conservative gathering." There were nine other references besides the headline to some or another species of "conservative" in the 1,000-word story. Here's a taste from the top:

Prospective Republican presidential contenders face an important test this week as they begin navigating the complex crosscurrents between the fiscal and social demands of conservatives while trying to prove their electability against President Obama.

The three-day gathering of the Conservative Political Action Committee, which begins Thursday with more than 10,000 activists expected to convene in Washington, effectively rings the opening bell for the Republican presidential nominating contest.

There is no clear consensus for who should carry the conservative mantle among nearly a dozen Republican aspirants who will be on hand to outline early themes of their candidacies. A wide-open race presents challenges and opportunities for the roster of current or former governors and members of Congress who are working to win over or, at the very least, neutralize influential conservative activists.

The event, which has been held every winter for nearly four decades, is seen as such a command performance this year that Haley Barbour, Mitch Daniels, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and John Thune are among those who accepted invitations. Sarah Palin and Mike Huckabee have both declined, citing scheduling conflicts.

In the wake of sweeping Republican victories in last year's Congressional elections, where Tea Party supporters rewarded candidates who pledged to uphold fiscally conservative principles and punished those who failed their conservative purity tests, the early stage of the 2012 campaign is unfolding as something of a political free-for-all. The event offers a prominent platform for candidates to introduce - or reintroduce - themselves to influential conservatives.

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