Why CPAC Matters

There are few known 2011 events that will invariably have an impact on who the Republican Party will nominate to face Barack Obama.

The CPAC confab, running Thursday through Saturday in DC, is one such event.

See full conference schedule here.

1. How do Mitch Daniels and Haley Barbour fare?

By entering the race, either man could become the instant Establishment alternative to Mitt Romney. Neither is all in (although Barbour and his aides so far are doing a lot more than Daniels to test the waters), and neither has ever road tested a potential national message in front of such a high-profile audience—the ballroom will be filled with conservative activists and observed by much of the nation’s political press corps. Watch closely to see how each prepares for the occasion, in terms of speechwriting and rehearsal. Barbour and Daniels are both savvy enough to know that a boffo perf this weekend would open up a much wider path for a run. Both also have to figure out how to spin what are expected to be lackluster straw poll showings.