| Jocelyn Augustino, American Media Institute

'Don't give up,' Scott Walker implores conservatives

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker kicked off the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Maryland, Thursday by avoiding mention of his abortive run for the GOP presidential nomination.

But Walker indirectly addressed the current state of the national race.

"Some of you might be confused, or dare I say upset, about what's happening in the presidential election," he told the crowd of conservative activists. "But the conservative movement is alive and well in the states."

Walker's talk, the first of the annual three-day affair, is set against the backdrop of a strengthening Donald Trump presidential campaign that won seven of 11 states on Super Tuesday.

Trump's continued rise has movement conservatives, who tend to dominate CPAC events, worrying that the New York real estate investor may undermine the electoral gains conservatives have made under President Barack Obama.

Walker's speech was an effort to put some distance between state-level Republican incumbents and the presidential race's turmoil.

"Our policies are working" in the states, Walker said. "Good policy is good politics."

He repeated that it was important for activists to spread the message about what he called "conservative, positive reforms," and implored the audience not to give up on the Republicans running for lower offices down ballot from the presidential nominee.

"We need your help at the state level," he said. "Don't give up."