(POLITICO) LAS VEGAS — Mitt Romney may top the 2012 ticket this fall, but conservative activists gathered here are buzzing about another heavyweight Republican that sparks far more passion among their ranks than the former Massachusetts governor.

Following the failure of Democrats and labor unions to oust him two weeks ago, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is being hailed as a conquering hero by conservatives nationwide. The 750 activists who descended on Sheldon Adelson’s Venetian hotel for the right’s answer to Netroots Nation see Walker’s bold and unapologetic brand of conservatism as the way to win in 2012.

While Romney — despite being the presumptive GOP presidential nominee — didn’t dominate conversation here, Walker and his victory cast a large shadow over just about everything. And although the Wisconsin governor didn’t attend the conservative confab, he is the standard by which activists plan to now judge all other Republicans.

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