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From violating no-tax pledges to failing to curb the growth of government, “compromising on principle keeps on costing Republicans,” said Pastors and Pews founder David Lane, a Los Angeles-based conservative evangelical organizer. “Compromise cost them the White House in 1992. Reagan won re-election in 1984 with 49 states; [George W. Bush] needed the U.S. Supreme Court in 2000 and Ohio in 2004.”

What most bugs Mr. McCoy, he said, is that “19 people in a Wisconsin church started the Republican party to end slavery, their president got a bullet in the back of his head and 650,000 people died in the war that ended slavery. For the next 70 years, Republicans dominated the political landscape as the party of character because they lead the people.”

Whether Mr. McCoy is right and the GOP has become a party led by followers — temperature takers — is the question CPAC was created to address.