Romney seeks conservative connection at CPAC

If you're looking for read-meat conservative politics, the Conservative Political Action Conference - an annual gathering of the nation's most influential conservatives - is the place to find it.

And for Mitt Romney, CPAC provides the backdrop to what could be the most important speech of his presidential campaign so far.

"He's got to gain not just the acquiescence of, but the enthusiasm of social and Tea Party conservatives in order to win in November, should he be the nominee," said Ralph Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition.

But for many conservatives at the conference, enthusiasm for Romney doesn't come easy.

Romney says his conservatism will shine through at CPAC

Charlie Earl of Ohio supported Romney four years ago, but now he's not so sure, saying that the former Massachusetts governor needs to "be more forceful and direct about where he actually stands. He does have some questionable background as far as, well, the flip-flopping type of thing."

Romney needs to make a major course correction in Friday's speech, according to conservative activist Andrew Breitbart.

"He has an opportunity here to potentially connect with a group of people that I think he's actively pursued a strategy not to connect with," he said.

(National Journal correspondent Major Garrett joined Charlie Rose and Erica Hill on CBS This Morning to discuss Romney's campaign challenges, Rick Santorum's prospects and why conservatives are still unsatisfied with the current crop of Republican candidates. Watch the discussion at left.)

Romney also has to deal with the conservative challenge from Rick Santorum, who's coming off victories in three states and who ripped into Romney Thursday in Oklahoma City

"He is not interested in talking about the issues. He is interested in trying to pander."

Santorum speaks at the conference Friday as well, along with Newt Gingrich, as both try to steal Romney's thunder.

Watch Chip Reid's full report above.

  • Chip Reid

    Chip Reid is CBS News' national correspondent.