CPAC The CPAC convention started Thursday. (Kevin LaMarque / Reuters)

Here is my two cents’ worth on CPAC.  Since its relevance seems to be in question, I will say that the conference still matters. But keep in mind: This is an off year for everyone involved in the campaign game. It will be interesting to see who shows up and what lines get the most applause, but I would be surprised if attendance isn’t down and headlines aren’t rare.

However, CPAC can diminish itself and the conservative cause if it doesn’t stick to what is important. CPAC has to be careful not to become a multi-day rally for pro-gun enthusiasts or a showcase for fist-shaking at President Obama.

Concerning the former, of course pro-Second Amendment forces will play an anchor role at any conservative gathering. But I worry about conservatives playing into MSM hands by becoming overly consumed with anti-gun-control rhetoric. Onerous gun-control legislation isn’t likely to pass at the federal level. The National Rifle Association and other defenders of gun rights in America are a blocking force that will prevent the left from imposing its will on gun owners. The NRA is winning the war, but its own media miscues cause them to lose too many battles. CPAC shouldn’t take the bait and let the likes of Michael Moore affect the news coming out of the 2013 convention.

And of equal importance, conservatives can’t just use CPAC to rant about Obama. The president is right when he reminds us that he won’t be on the ballot again. A lot of people wish Obama well. But his weakness is the economy, and that is what people still care about. For Republicans to be “on message” means to be relentless in exposing the flawed economic plans liberals have subjected the country to for the last 4-plus years. The stock market notwithstanding, the rise of dependency in America and the flood of red ink we have seen have created a crisis. Conservatives must take the lead in offering solutions.

For the purpose of highlighting the economy, CPAC couldn’t have been scheduled at a better time. A new, sinister line of argument is developing on the left that says we don’t really have economic problems. That’s right: Democrats are saying that gloom-and-doom Republicans just want to convince voters we have economic problems so they can cold-heartedly cut your benefits.

Denying our problems exist is remarkable in its gall, and it is particularly cancerous in the negative effect it has on our country.  To say we don’t have problems creates its own excuse for letting our problems get worse. I hope CPAC speakers put the lie to the growing chorus on the left who claim we simply don’t have economic problems beyond income inequality; that spending more money than we have is not a problem that needs to addressed. This isn’t just shameless, it is dangerous. I hope the CPAC speakers have plenty to say about it.