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Mitch Daniels inclusion at CPAC draws criticism from conservative groups

The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) has drawn the ire from sections of the socially conservative base over their decision to allow gay-rights groups to take part in the event.

But today, outside organizations found a new reason for boycotting CPAC: Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels’ speaking slot. American Principles Project sent out a press release Tuesday morning attacking Daniels’ inclusion at CPAC as a banquet speaker.

“Governor Daniels’ selection is an affront to the millions of conservatives who believe that social issues such as abortion and traditional marriage are non-negotiable,” Andy Blom, the group’s executive director said in the statement.

The controversy revolves around comments Daniels made to The Weekly Standard last year, pushing economic matters over the base’s focus on social issues. “The next president, whoever he is, ‘would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,’” The Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson wrote.

This single line drew wide attention among conservatives, but appears to be the only main fault they have found with Indiana’s governor. “This really is just about that Daniels quote, because in the months since he offered it social conservatives have not pointed to any Daniels deviation from their priorities,” Slate’s Dave Weigel writes.

The continued persistence of this line could pose problematic for Daniels’ possible 2012 presidential bid. Daniels is already far behind many other candidates in early 2012 polling. So far, most of his support seems to come largely from the Washington Republican establishment, which respects Daniels for his economic bona fides. Yet, if that single line on a “truce” regarding social issues continues to follow Daniels as a defining statement, he will likely struggle to win over the conservative base that dominates the early caucus and primary states in the nominating process.

This is not the first instance of groups announcing their intention to boycott CPAC this year. In response to gay Republican organization GOProud’s attendance, Family Research Council and Concerned Women for America said they would no longer take part in CPAC. Like Daniels, the groups’ objections to GOProud’s inclusion revolved around their effort to focus Republicans on economics. “The genesis of this disagreement was a letter signed by GOProud and several local tea party groups asking conservatives to focus on economic issues as opposed to social issues,” TAI’s Luke Johnson wrote at the time.

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