NBC's Lauren Appelbaum reports on the speeches at CPAC last night. "We're alive," Rep. Michele Bachmann (MN), who emceed the evening session, said. "We're not going anywhere. Remember this is ground zero for the conservative movement."
When RNC chair Michael Steele took the stage to loud applause, Appelbaum adds, he opened with some jokes. "Any conservatives in the house tonight?" Steele asked to laughter. "Brother just wants to check! Make sure I'm in the right place." But he quickly got to business, acting as a cheerleader for the Republican Party. "I wanted to come here tonight to let America know that we are a movement that is alive and well, that these are the essential conservative principles of our national Republican party, for we are the conservative party in this country and damn proud of it."
The New York Times' wrap of CPAC yesterday: Mike Huckabee "suggested that if Republicans were looking for anyone to blame for the electoral losses that swept Barack Obama into the White House and gave Democrats more power in Congress, they should look in the mirror." More: "But the mood on Thursday among the thousands of conservatives at the annual session was not defeatist. This, after all, is the conference where Samuel J. Wurzelbacher, better known as Joe the Plumber, is a major celebrity, and where the talk show host Rush Limbaugh gets a prime speaking slot."
Speaking of Steele, his latest flub -- having implied that he'd support primary challengers to Republicans who voted for the stimulus -- landed him in hot water with the senators, Roll Call writes. He "is coming under fire from fellow Republicans for calling for 'retribution' against moderate" senators. NRSC Chair Jon Cornyn: "We need to be finding candidates that can win in different parts of the country ... not forming circular firing squads, especially when our numbers are so small."
More: "Senate Republicans say they believe Steele is stepping outside of his role, which should be to bolster the efforts of the House and Senate campaign organizations to elect Republicans. 'You just cannot haphazardly call for primary challenges for your moderate wing one day and follow it with selling your base down the river the next. Somebody needs to tell him to relax, settle into the job and realize that nobody cares what the RNC chairman thinks about anything other than winning elections,' one veteran GOP aide said."