GOP leaders flock to conservative gathering

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The GOP's biggest stars are joining thousands of conservatives and tea party activists this week outside Washington.

The Conservative Political Action Conference offers Republican leaders a high-profile stage to court their party's most passionate voters. The speaker list is a who's who of possible 2016 Republican presidential contenders.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul are scheduled to speak Thursday as the gathering begins. They'll be joined later in the week by Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

The conference comes at a critical time for Republicans, who are still recovering from a painful 2012 election season.

Party leaders next week will release a comprehensive plan — dubbed the Growth and Opportunity Project — to help improve the Republican brand.

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