Mitt Romney is headed into the conservative lion’s den just as concerns about his appeal to the Republican Party’s right flank are reaching a fever pitch.

Romney’s address on Friday before the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) comes days after a triple-whammy defeat by Rick Santorum, a self-described “conservative firebrand” who speaks fluently the language of the GOP’s evangelical base.

When Romney speaks at CPAC — two hours after Santorum addresses the same crowd — he faces a tough task: He must assuage doubts that he’s a bona fide conservative with broad appeal among the Republican base, without tacking so far to the right that he appears disingenuous or hands President Obama attack lines to use against him in a general election.