The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) kicks off today. The annual event is a chance for the elite of the Republican Party and the conservative media sphere to rub shoulders, organize, and speechify. But with the grassroots conservative Tea Party movement gaining steam nationally, it's unclear who will dominate the event. The Tea Party movement has been at odds with the GOP establishment, and tends to be deeply mistrustful of any elite figures. Will the movement and the leadership clash, or will Republicans finally make the Tea Party a force of their own?

  • 'Learning To Manage The Fringe'  The Washington Independent's David Weigel reports that Republican officials are struggling with the Tea Party's nuttier elements. "Conservatives have become aware that fringe issues can trip them up," he writes. "At the same time, CPAC has accepted the sponsorship of the John Birch Society -- a far-right group famously exiled from the conservative movement by William F. Buckley. And some figures in the 'birther' movement will be making appearances at the conference."
  • Tea Party Splits Forebode Conflict  Talking Points Memo's Christina Bellantoni writes, "Republicans across the country have been trying to harness the tea party energy for their own races as anti-establishment sentiment sweeps the nation in the leadup to the midterm elections." But even the Tea Party movement is deeply fissured, with some believing the movement to be anti-GOP, but others supporting Republican candidates. If the Tea Partiers can't even come together with each other, it's difficult to see them joining the entire Republican Party.
  • CPAC Moving Right, But It's Risky  The Guardian's Jeremy Lott evaluates attempts to court the Tea Partiers. "CPAC has been criticised for being a rightwing echo chamber, a charge that has some merit. This year promises a greater diversity of voices, though few of them will be described as 'moderate,'" he writes. "All of the presidential aspirants may find a sceptical audience. Grassroots conservatives believe that Republicans bungled the last election and much of the Bush presidency. They don't like Obama's deficits but understand that the current president only deepened trends begun by the last one. The logic of their distrust of government, which is benefiting Republicans at present, can cut both ways - and all the way to the bone."
  • Secessionism at CPAC  The New York Times' Gail Collins finds "civil war déjà vu. The trick in conservative circles today is to see how furious you can get about Washington's encroachment onto states rights without quite falling over the edge into Fort Sumter." She writes, "It's hard for the Conservative Political Action Conference, which was the home of the right-wing fringe a decade or so ago, to keep ahead of the game."
  • GOP Leaders Court Activists  CNN's Peter Hamby explores the unusual role reversal. "An uneasy truce may have been reached between the Tea Party movement and the Republican Party after Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele spent nearly four hours Tuesday trying to calm the fears of Tea Party leaders who worry that the GOP is out to co-opt their grassroots energy ahead of the 2010 midterm elections."