Media-savvy conservative think tanks take aim and fire at progressive power bases in the states.

The mood at the beginning of the meeting matched the weather: gray and dreary. The warm-up speaker told a joke about how local Republicans could merit placement on the endangered species list, which met with polite laughter. Talk of the most recent presidential election elicited audible groans.

Days after Barack Obama took the oath of office for his second term, about 400 GOP donors gathered in a downtown San Francisco hotel to hear Jim DeMint—who had just resigned from the Senate to take a $1-million-a-year job as head of the Heritage Foundation—explain the way forward.

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