OXON HILL, Md. They might talk about it in downtown Washington. But moderation and compromise weren't up for discussion as conservatives gathered to plot strategy Friday in the suburb of Oxon Hill, Md., down the Potomac River.
Higher revenues for the government were anathema at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference here, which continues today. So were same-sex marriage, abortion, gun control and Democrats.
"We are leading the way. We are pro-life, pro-family. Anyone who is not with us is going to be challenged," said Brooke McGowan, the North Carolina and South Carolina project director for the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform, an activist group.
Seldom was heard a dissenting word, because those who might do so either didn't mention the controversial stuff or hadn't been invited.
The Republican National Committee is on a soul-searching mission, trying to find out what went wrong in the 2012 elections and what might be adjusted. A report is due to be released Monday. The conservatives here didn't seem eager to see it, however.
They did hear from 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and they gave him a polite welcome.
"It's up to us to learn from our mistakes and my mistakes," he said, but he didn't stir much enthusiasm when he suggested learning from Republican governors. He praised governors who "reach across the aisle," and named the center-right New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who wasn't invited here.
Instead, the crowd reveled in a lineup that featured mogul Donald Trump lauding "the tea party, which I love so dearly," former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum touting his new "Patriot Voices" movement and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., ripping Democrats as "the party of shared hardship."
The conservatives met as many establishment Republicans want to tone down the rhetoric and refocus the party.
Those Republicans met with President Barack Obama this week at the Capitol. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he hoped that Obama's meeting with Senate Republicans "will get us to a solution" on fiscal issues.
That attitude wasn't well received at the conference.
The throng was more excited about South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who vowed, "As long as I'm governor of South Carolina, we will not expand Medicaid on President Obama's watch." States may expand the joint federal-state health care program for lower-income people, and the federal government will pay full costs for new beneficiaries for three years starting in 2014.
The crowd also loved Ryan, the losing vice-presidential nominee, who this week proposed a plan to balance the budget in 10 years without raising taxes.
The hundreds at the conference considered themselves the latest in a long line that began roughly 50 years ago, when the conservative movement first gained momentum with leaders such as author William F. Buckley Jr., then-actor Ronald Reagan and Barry Goldwater.
Attendees lauded the Club for Growth, which promotes limited government, for threatening to launch primary challenges against Republicans who aren't sufficiently conservative. Many here vowed, for example, to challenge Republicans who wouldn't support Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul's 13-hour filibuster last week over the Obama administration's drone policy.
"We look to principle, not politics. I hate politics," said Matthew Burke, an Arizona-based social media specialist for the Tea Party News Network. "We are fighting the Republican establishment."