Conservatives Plot Comeback With Renewed Energy

It's a three-day conservative bliss-fest packed with celebrities, political power players and nerve-hitting speeches. And with a new momentum to revitalize the Republican Party, attendees at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference are more energetic than they've been in years about taking back control of Congress.

"We're coming back," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said as he participated in a bowling event Thursday evening in Washington, D.C.

VIDEO: Republicans gaining momentum in WashingtonPlay

Uplifted by recent Democratic resignations, Scott Brown's surprise Senate victory in Massachusetts and Tea Party populism, conservatives believe their 2010 election prospects look promising.

"CPAC is conservatives' annual family reunion and this year the family is in high spirits," ABC News' political analyst George Will said.

CPAC has always drawn conservative bigwigs and is the biggest gathering of its kind, but the 37th annual gathering this year boasts record numbers, with 10,000 expected to attend, including many college students.

"I must say, nothing gives me more hope for the future of the nation than looking around at night seeing all the young right-wingers meeting, mingling and dating," said conservative commentator Ann Coulter, who headlined the event last year.

Despite the renewed energy, it is not yet clear if there is a unified agenda. The 37th annual convention is charting new waters, hoping to capture the sentiment of new movements, such as the Tea Party, while also bringing to the forefront seasoned Republican politicians.

The conference exhibited a wide variety of speakers, including those who defend Bush-era policies, such as Romney and such Tea Party supporters as Senate hopeful Marco Rubio of Florida. But then there were also others, like Brown, who achieved victory by appealing to independent voters. With many voices at the conference calling for a return to core conservative principles, at issue is whether the Republican Party can capture the support of the independents who, many analysts say, will be key in the upcoming mid-term elections.

The one main difference at this year's convention was the presence of a young, energized crowd ready to get into the game. Conference organizers went out of their way to target younger members, with a "Reaganpalooza" at a Capitol Hill bar and "XPAC," for "X-treme politically active conservatives."

"It's bigger, it's younger and it's positive, and those are the three changes that I see. It's not old and angry; it's young, excited and looking forward," Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who spoke at the conference today, said on "Top Line."

The energy has been undeniably staunchly anti-Obama, but less pro-Republican.

"If government spending were an Olympic sport, he [Obama] would be a repeat gold medalist," Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said today as he kicked off day two of the conference.

Former vice president Dick Cheney had a prediction of his own Thursday.

"I think 2010 will be a phenomenal year for the conservative cause, and I think Barack Obama is a one-term president," said Cheney, who made a surprise appearance to rally the crowd.

Romney jokingly said, "The gold medal won last night by American Lindsey Vonn has been stripped. It has been determined that President Obama has been going downhill faster than she has."

Actor and conservative radio host Stephen Baldwin is one of the people leading the youth charge.

"I am not happy about the way things are," Baldwin told ABC News. "I pray for President Obama every single day. But tell you what. Homie made this bed, now he has got to lay in it."

The one name missing from the program is Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor and keynote speaker at the first Tea Party convention earlier this month turned down an invitation to speak. Officials said she had conflicts with some of the sponsors, and insiders said Palin prefers to stand apart and believes that staying outside of the beltway serves her better.

Republicans Take Aim at Democratic Leaders at CPAC

The speakers didn't stop at taking jabs at Obama. They criticized their own party members, some for not being conservative enough.

"We don't just need a Republican majority. We need a conservative majority on Capitol Hill," Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., said today.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., echoed similar sentiments Thursday.

"I'd rather have 30 Republicans in the Senate who believe in the principles rather than 60 who don't believe in anything," told attendees.

"I'd rather have 30 Marco Rubios in the Senate than 60 Arlen Specters," he said, comparing the conservative rising star to the senator from Pennsylvania who switched from the GOP to the Democratic caucus last year.

Cheney was hailed as a star. His surprise appearance following his daughter Liz Cheney's speech was met with wild applause, chants of "Cheney" and a standing ovation.

"A welcome like that is almost enough to make me want to run for office," Cheney said, laughing. "But I'm not going to do it."

Brown, the newly minted senator from Massachusetts, also made a surprise appearance to introduce Romney.

"One Democrat said, 'There was no way in hell a Republican was going to get elected to the seat once held by Ted Kennedy.' Well, here I am," said Brown, who received a hero's welcome. "We collectively absolutely have changed the course of politics in America."

Romney, who is the frontrunner for the GOP 2012 nomination in the eyes of many Republicans, made a line-by-line attack against Obama and his agenda.

"President Obama's self-proclaimed B+ will go down in history as the biggest exaggeration since Al Gore's invention of the Internet," Romney said, referring to the president's assessment of his first year in office. "This president will not deserve the credit he will undoubtedly claim. He has prolonged the recession, expanded the pain of unemployment, and added to the burden of debt we will leave future generations.

Assailing the president's health care overhaul push, Romney said, "Obamacare is bad care for America." But he did not mention his own record enacting universal health care legislation in Massachusetts. That legislation was in some ways a model for Democrats' nationwide plans.

Marco Rubio Emerges as Conservative Rising Star

The attacks didn't stop at Obama. Speakers also riled the crowd by assailing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

"Any day that Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi can't get to work is a good day for freedom, liberty and it's a good day for the American people's wallets," Pawlenty said today.

"A recession is when your neighbor loses his job. A depression is when you lose your job. And a recovery is when Nancy Pelosi loses her job," Pence said.

Romney, meanwhile, had high praises for former president George W. Bush, who has been relatively quiet since stepping out of office, unlike Cheney, who has emerged as a leading critic of the Obama administration. Romney today argued that history will judge Bush kinder than he is portrayed now.

"When it comes to pinning blame, pin the tail on the donkeys [Democrats]," Romney said.

Rubio was undoubtedly the star of the day. The 39-year old son of Cuban immigrants is locked in a tight battle for the GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida. Gov. Charlie Crist, who has much of the official Republican Party establishment support, has been running slightly behind Rubio in recent polls there.

Rubio, as expected, delivered a speech charged with anti-Obama administration rhetoric as he kicked off the convention. The former Florida state House speaker and tea party movement supporter panned Obama on all fronts, from health care to energy legislation to national security.

"From the tea parties to the election in Massachusetts, we are witnessing the greatest single pushback in American history," Rubio declared.

"2010 is not just a choice between Republicans and Democrats. It's not just a choice between liberals and conservatives. 2010 is a referendum on the very identity of our nation," he added as he portrayed Obama's policies, without mentioning by him name, of that like a socialist country like the one his parents fled.

ABC News' Claire Shipman, Z. Byron Wolf and David Chalian contributed to this report.