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At times, one branch or another has appeared to be ascendant — such as after the 2004 elections, when “values voters” were considered the hot group. But some saw the 2010 elections, with the tea party movement bolstering the GOP, as a signal that economic and limited-government conservatives had gained the upper hand.

That has led some to cast the battle over GOProud as a proxy for primacy in the conservative coalition, with GOProud leaders saying the elections showed that Republicans should focus on economic issues and shelve social issues.

Colin A. Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring and one of the signers of the memo, said the problem with GOProud is that it can’t be squared with the rest of the “big-tent” message conservatives profess.

“The agenda of GOProud is fundamentally incompatible with virtually all social conservatives, so this isn’t diversity, it’s discord,” he said.

He added, though, that the fight itself does not break up the Reagan coalition and that his group is not boycotting.

“I think it’s a time to get this stuff straight. Having said what I said, you’ll notice our organization, Let Freedom Ring, will be at CPAC,” he said. “The purpose of the letter is to focus on CPAC next year and beyond, rather than focus on CPAC this week. That decision’s been made. Let’s get it right next time.”

Among other signers of the memo are conservative icon Phyllis Schalfly, former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell, Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly and Media Research Center President L. Brent Bozell.

Notably absent were major social-issues groups such as the American Family Association, the Family Research Council and the Heritage Foundation.

With no clear front-runner for next year’s Republican presidential nomination, CPAC’s straw poll will be an early test of strength among the conservatives who dominate primaries. Many of the GOP’s hopefuls will be speaking, including Sen. John Thune, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Missing is former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin, who said she has another commitment. Still, she told CBN this weekend that she didn’t question CPAC’s inclusion of GOProud, saying she is open to groups presenting differing opinions and “the more information that people have, the better.”