“CPAC is no less ideological, but it’s becoming more tactical and strategic,” said pollster Kellyanne Conway, who also believes Republicans are making a mistake not making clear where they stand and adopting what she called “a defensive crouch.”

Save for a punchline from GOP mega-donor Foster Friess about the Chick-fil-A protests and a full-throated speech from former Sen. Jim DeMint, the conversation from CPAC’s main stage about gay marriage has been non-existent. More time was devoted to panel discussions about women’s issues and abortion than to gay marriage…

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, one of the culture warriors of the 1990s, touched briefly on social issues. But he did so with a broad stroke, invoking God and tradition and faith without denouncing gay marriage. Last year, Santorum was far clearer as he pitched himself as the conservative alternative to Romney in his appeals on social issues, and in 2011, he told the Washington Blade there should be a federal marriage amendment.

Even Rubio’s brief mention won him praise from the conservative Family Research Council, which blasted other Republicans for keeping quiet on gay marriage in an email to its supporters Friday night.