Nightly News   |  February 21, 2010

Grassroots conservatives a boon for GOP?

With Washington gridlocked and discontent on full display at the Conservative Political Action Conference, NBC’s Mike Viqueira examines the current state of the political landscape.

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>> aspell, nbc news, kabul.

>>> back home, it was the center of the political world over the past few days. the conservative political action conference in washington , hosting a who's who of the political right. the conference was also a showcase for a growing conservative grassroots movement . one that has republicans as well as democrats in its sights. nbc's mike viqueira is at the white house with more. mike, good evening, good to see you.

>> reporter: good evening, lester . conservative grassroots activists left washington this weekend confident their growing power and influence in the political world . but it is republican leaders here who know now that they cannot take the enthusiasm and support of those grassroots activists for granted. cable tv host glenn beck rallied conservatives to close a three-day meeting in washington .

>> progressivism is the cancer in america, and it is eating our constitution.

>> reporter: grassroots activists think their movement is on the rise. that's the good news for republicans.

>> i believe we are now in a struggle over whether or not we are going to save america.

>> reporter: they're angry at democrats for what they see is too much spending, too few jobs, and weakness on national security . the bad news? they also blame the gop itself.

>> hello! my name is the republican party , and i've got a problem. i'm addicted to spending and big government .

>> can you hear us now?

>> reporter: fueled by tea party discontent and mistrust of party laerks leaders, the schism was on full display last night.

>> the winner of this year's cpac straw poll -- now --

>> reporter: when libertarian ron paul was the surprise winner. but the political climate is even more treacherous for democrats.

>> ironically, the best communicator in the history of political campaigning turned out in his first year in office to not communicate very well.

>> reporter: with even democratic governors saying the president will be tested in this week's nationally televiesed health care summit.

>> i don't want to see this meeting turn into political theater with each side simply reciting talking points and trying to score political points.

>> reporter: but partisan tensions were evident on "meet the press" today.

>> all this is going to be is some media event --

>> come on.

>> -- used as a preamble to shove through obama care 2.0.

>> reporter: that bitter partisanship led to the surprise announcement from indiana's evan bayh that he won't seek re-election.

>> anything we can do to get the members to talk to one another, interact with one another in a non-adversarial setting, we're going to be a lot better off.

>> reporter: and lester , tomorrow the president is set to release the health care plan that he will put on the table at that thursday meeting with republicans. lester ?

>> mike viqueira at the white house . thanks.