FEAR OF GAY COOTIES SPREADS IN ADVANCE OF CPAC…. I knew some on the right are outraged about gay conservatives appearing at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) this year, but I didn’t actually expect them to have larger successes.

If you’re just joining us, CPAC, arguably the nation’s largest annual right-wing gathering, kicks off in just a few weeks. Under normal circumstances, the buzz would be about the speakers’ list and the size of the crowd.

And that would make sense. This should be an especially big year for CPAC — emboldened Republican Party leaders will be on hand to boast about their right-wing agenda, and a legion of likely presidential candidates will be on hand to kiss the base’s ring. The turnout should be huge.

But some prominent conservatives have decided to skip the party. In December, several prominent religious right organizations, including the Family Research Council and the American Family Association, announced they will boycott the event because organizers agreed to allow a gay Republican group, GOProud, to participate.

Yesterday, the U.S. Senate’s most right-wing member announced he, too, will refuse to attend.

South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint will skip this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, making him the most prominent conservative figure yet to express objections to what critics see as a pro-gay, libertarian tilt to the 38-year old event.

“With leading conservatives [sic] organizations not participating this year, Senator DeMint will not be attending. He hopes to attend a unified CPAC next year,” DeMint spokesman Wesley Denton said in an email.

And by “unified,” DeMint’s office means “without those gay people around.”

He’s not the only member to take this stand — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Republican Study Committee, will also boycott CPAC for the same reason.

That DeMint is an extremist on social issues isn’t exactly new. Just a couple of months ago, he told Fox News, “You can’t be a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative.” DeMint has even said there should prohibitions on unmarried women and gays teaching in public schools. A freedom-loving libertarian he isn’t.

But this CPAC boycott is nevertheless pretty ridiculous. DeMint doesn’t even want to be in the same room as some of the nation’s leading right-wing activists if there are a few conservative gays there? Is the fear of gay cooties this strong?

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.