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Like Dr. Evil, did the GOP just steal Obama’s mojo?

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And the GOP’s bluster at CPAC belies a big question: Amid the red-meat speeches and Democrat-bashing, what does the GOP actually stand for beyond bromides about smaller government and muscular foreign policy? Will key independents ultimately buy into the party’s newfound fiscal discipline – or be turned off by what critics call the wingnut factor?

Listening to Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty urge Americans to emulate Tiger Woods’s wife Elin Nordegren and “take a 9-iron and smash the window out of big government,” critics like Gail Collins at the New York Times and Mike Lux at the Huffington Post point out how too many CPAC Republicans revel in violent imagery to get their points across.

“While there has always been a crazy streak in the conservative movement … the most wild extremists have never taken over the movement lock, stock and barrel before,” writes Mr. Lux. “Today they are thoroughly in control.”

And Obama himself seemed to sense the divide between partisan cheerleading and dire realities in Washington this morning when he invited Republicans to a healthcare summit but added, “I don't want to see this meeting turn into political theater.”

More middle-of-the-road critics say Republicans are ultimately hawking the same tired small government message, seemingly oblivious to the fact that deficit reduction may require tax increases along with spending cuts.

“Intellectually honest conservatives are homeless,” writes the Atlantic’s Marc Ambinder.

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