In 1964, TIME magazine reported that Mitt Romney’s father George, then-Governor of Michigan, felt that the brief civil rights plank of the Republican platform should have been stronger.

One could ask whether the Republican Party has made any progress since the days when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said of their nominee for President, “I am compelled to urge all people of goodwill to vote against him…his election would be a tragedy and certainly suicidal almost for the nation and the world.”

Today, George Romney’s son, Former Massachusetts Governor and 2008 Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, entered the Republican contest as this years presumptive front runner to secure the GOP nomination. Since the balloting began, however, he has discovered that being a conservative is no longer enough to secure the nomination; now you have to be a card carrying reactionary.

Also significant is that for the first time, use of proportional allocation of delegates in many state primary and caucus contests are allowing the possibility that the Republican contest of 2012 could mirror the Democratic contest of 2008 when each state was contested bitterly and two distinct camps entered the convention city. This has led to an unusual number of candidate debates and forums and allowed the true ultra-right voice of the Party to be heard, and the candidates are eager to add their voice to the chorus in exchange for votes.

A promise to gut the NLRB is no longer enough to win the hearts and minds of the faithful; now, like Speaker Newt Gingrich, you have to pledge a return to child labor. Advocating an extension of the Bush tax-cuts will no longer clear your path to victory. Now, you have to sign an oath that you will never, under any circumstances, raise taxes. And opposing time lines for a withdraw from Afghanistan is so inefficient to convince the ultra-right constituency of the GOP that imperialism will be safe in your hands, Texas Gov. Rick Perry felt it necessary to advocate the re-invasion of Iraq. It is also no longer enough to claim to be ‘pro-life’ – you now have to rally the public against birth control and support so-called ‘personhood’ proposals so preposterous that even the voters of such reliable red states as Mississippi have rebuked them with resounding defeats by referendum.

Mitt tried to regain his momentum with the conservative movement by throwing red-meat rhetoric to the most ravenous of the ultra-right gathered together under the banner of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference. This came on the heels of Mitt’s triple state loss to Rick Santorum on a single evening in primaries and caucuses stretching from the Great Lakes to the Rocky Mountains.

Who attends such shindigs as CPAC? Among others were a disreputable band of bigots, who now style themselves, ‘white nationalists’ enjoying a pep-talk from Iowa GOP Congressman Steve King at their workshop.

Also on the scene was the author of the notorious Arizona immigration law, bragging up his expanded role in the Romney campaign.

Just as interesting as who attends is who pays the bills for this crazy confab. In addition to the usual suspects as ‘Koch Industries’ and ‘The American Petroleum Institute,’ the sponsorship list also includes such moldy oldies as Phyliss Schafly’s ‘Eagle Forum;’ feel free to visit the Eagle Forum website if you want to read a screed by Phyliss against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Will pandering to bigots and religious extremists be enough to save the Romney campaign? With the Republican candidates using both hands to turn back the clock, it may prove to be a long hard slog to Tampa.