Donald Trump stole the show on the first day of the Conservative Political Action Conference -- stealing the spotlight is his specialty, after all -- and he did it by making all sorts of brash and questionable declarations
-- also a trademark.
Trump announced, for example, that potential presidential rival Ron Paul was a sure loser, which is hard to dispute, and also that he has been an enormously successful businessman, an assertion somewhat undercut by his long trail
of bankruptcies and bailouts.
But it was Trump's declaration to the CPAC crowd that he is now "pro-life" that has some social conservatives scratching their heads.
The Donald is known for his playboy lifestyle as much as he is for his dealmaking abilities and his reality-show shtick. So "family values guy" isn't a label one would naturally associate with Trump, unless one is impressed by the fact that he has five children by three wives.
Moreover, in his 2000 book, "The America We Deserve" Trump wrote that he supports "a woman's right to choose," but added, "I am uncomfortable with the procedures."
That discomfort seemed to grow as Trump inched closer to throwing his hat into the 2012 ring, as he seems increasingly tempted to do.
Last November ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Trump if he was pro-choice and the real-estate mogul was uncharacteristically demur.
"I am -- well, I don't want to discuss right now, but you will be shocked when I give you that answer," Trump said
. "Well, you will be very surprised when I give you -- I'm going to make a decision [about running for president]. And when I make a decision I'll let you know about that. But, I think you'll probably be surprised."
Then, on the eve of the CPAC cattle call for GOP candidates, Trump told talk-radio host Laura Ingraham flat out: "I am pro-life." And he repeated that declaration on Thursday.
So is that enough to win the soul of social conservatives? Pro-lifers didn't seem to be sold quite yet.
"Well, this is good news, I suppose. Right? After all, we do welcome converts," Joshua Mercer wrote at CatholicVote.org
, the blog of a conservative political lobby.
But, he added, "pro-life Catholics need to exercise extreme caution regarding Donald Trump. It's possible his 'conversion' is just like Mitt Romney's -- made because he realizes he cannot win the Republican presidential nomination with the label 'pro-choice.' "
(Mercer identified Trump as a Catholic, but he is apparently a member of the Dutch Reformed Church.)
Writing at the anti-abortion site LifeNews.com
, Andrew Bair's interest was piqued by Trump's newfound potential, but he was also cautious. "As the 2012 race intensifies, pro-life advocates must call upon Donald Trump to further explain his stand on important pro-life issues like Supreme Court nominations and repeal of the pro-abortion Obama healthcare law."
David Brody at the Christian Broadcasting Network also seemed intrigued by the new version of The Donald.
"Love him or hate him there's one thing for sure about Trump: He speaks his mind and gets things done," Brody wrote
. "Potentially refreshing if he runs in 2012."
Trump's turnabout could also be seen as a confirmation of the influence that social conservatives still retain in the Republican Party, as no potential candidate can afford to be seen as mushy on the abortion issue if they expect to have any chance for the nomination.