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(CNN) – Republicans came out swinging today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out armed, walking onto CPAC's stage bearing a rifle. The gun was a life-time achievement award gift from the National Rifle Association that he handed off to his retiring colleague, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who is leaving his term early for health reasons.
But the more common weapon in the room was words.
"We have long thought and said this president is a smart man. It may be time to revisit that assumption," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan called it a "family reunion" but there were really two competing visions on display at CPAC.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz talked about the need to stand firm and not compromise, saying that is the way to win elections.
"You want to lose elections, stand for nothing. Look at the last four congressional elections – '06, '08, '10, and '12. Three of the four we followed that strategy; 06, 08, 12 we put our head down, we stood for nothing, and we got walloped," said Cruz.
Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said principles are nice, but winning elections is better.
"We don't get to govern if we don't win. And it's not only bad when we don't get to govern, 'cause we don't get to mold and change our society. What's worse is they do. And they're doing it to us right now. So please, let us come out here resolved to not only stand for our principles, but let's come out of this conference resolved to win elections again," Christie said.
Can the GOP have it both ways? National Journal political columnist Ron Fournier and Wall Street Journal White House correspondent Carol Lee discuss.