The CSU, Bavarian sister party to the ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU), gave its leader Horst Seehofer strong backing on Saturday, after weeks of speculation over Guttenberg's growing national popularity. There is a widespread belief that the young shooting star could be lining up to lead the party and eventually bid for the chancellery.
In an interview with state broadcaster ARD following his speech, Seehofer said he was very pleased with the conference, and added, "I was sitting very secure in the saddle before – now maybe I'm a little better, maybe now I'm strapped in by both feet and round my hips."
The CSU leader insisted that he had a "a real friendship" with Guttenberg, "such as one rarely experiences in politics," and described media reports of a power struggle between the two men as "pure nonsense."
He praised Guttenberg's "outstanding work," and said he was "young enough to take his time. And he knows that."
Seehofer also used his speech to consolidate his party's conservative profile, to the right of its coalition partners the CDU and the Free Democratic Party (FDP). He called on his party to show more self-confidence, and said it could be "proud" of its work. Seehofer's speech was greeted with a standing ovation of several minutes.
Seehofer risked further confrontation with the FDP by celebrating his party's new "7-point integration plan," unanimously adopted at the conference. The plan rejects any increase of immigration for educated workers, saying that Germany's shortage of skilled workers should not be "a free ticket for uncontrolled immigration."
The CSU's plan expressly rejects the FDP's call for an immigration points-system.