Conservative stars gather for apres-debate confab in Denver


This post has been updated.

DENVER — On the morning after the first presidential debate, a host of political stars from the conservative firmament — perhaps including GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney himself — will be here for a gathering of Colorado members of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Update October 4, 11:58 a.m.: Romney made a surprise appearance at CPAC, emphasizing a Republican victory in in Colorado, one of the eight states that the non-partisan Cook Political Report considers as tossup in this year's presidential race. 

CPAC Colorado, whose slogan is "Mobilizing the Mountain West," is a project of the American Conservative Union, which describes itself as "the oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization in the nation." Annual CPAC gatherings in Washington, D.C. are seen as a place for conservative candidates to strut their stuff before the faithful. The group traditionally holds a straw poll for president, and indeed Romney won the tally earlier this year.

Among the speakers who have signed on recently,according to a report this week in the Washington Times: Republican Sens. John Thune of South Dakota;and  Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, as well as Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah. Four out of Romney's five sons are also scheduled to attend. Other featured speakers are Sen. Marco Rubio, Tea Party favorite from the battleground state of Florida, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, and Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas. Colorado, considered a crucial swing state this election, will also be represented: Rep. Cory Gardner, from Colorado's fourth district, is one of the closing speakers. Gardner won his seat in 2010 from Democrat Betsy Markey, but his race is not considered competitive this year thanks to redistricting decisions  favorable to the GOP.

Already drawing controversy is the appearance of Colorado's secretary of state, Scott Gessler, on a panel titled, "Stealing Elections: what the Left Doesn't Want You to Know About Voter Fraud." As reported by Denver's independent weekly, Westword, Gessler will be appearing alongside a representative from True the Vote, profiled recently in the New York Times as one of a network that is policing voter fraud in swing states. Gessler came under criticism recently for his campaigning to weed out illegal voters and is known as the "honey badger" by foes for his tenacity.

The homegrown Independence Institute, headed by President Jon Caldera, is sending half a dozen speakers to discuss topics from education to obesity to seniors. National figures will also be on hand, such as David Keen, president of the National Rifle Association; former Rep. Arturo Davis, a one-time Alabama Democrat and Obama champion turned Virginia Republican Romney backer; representatives from the Heritage Foundation; the Cato Institute, Americans for Prosperity, and more.

CPAC meetings have proved to be occasions to fundraise in the past, according to invitations collected by Party Time. No invitations are posted at present for the Denver gathering, but readers are welcome to send any they may know of along by uploading them here or emailing them. Sunlight wil also be on the scene covering CPAC via Twitter and blog updates.