The Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual confab of 10,000 conservatives held at one of Washington, D.C.'s top mega-hotels, kicked off Thursday for a three-day festival that is already full of surprises.

On the eve of CPAC, the American Conservative Union, the conference organizer, surprised many by announcing longtime chief David Keene had stepped down and would be replaced with Al Cardenas, former Florida Republican Party chairman.

The move is unlikely to stem the internecine conflict behind the scenes resulting from a boycott by social conservative groups protesting the inclusion of a gay Republican organization. Cardenas has said he's going to continue with the "big tent" approach that led to the boycott from groups like the Family Research Council.

You can read more about that here. And here.

The fireworks aren't likely to undermine CPAC, now in its 39th year. At least 10 potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates were scheduled to speak as well as Tea Party favorites, conservative luminaries and media personalities.

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