The eyes of the Republican political world will turn to New Orleans today as a cavalcade of GOP leaders, wanna-be leaders and national reporters will be in the Big Easy for the Southern Republican Leadership Conference.
The event is widely being cast as the first “cattle call” of the 2012 Republican presidential primary fight although the absence of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee makes it slightly less star-packed.
Still, during the three-day event, which begins this evening, a number of the brightest lights in the party from former Alaska governor Sarah Palin to Texas Gov. Rick Perry to Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour — among many, many others — will address the crowd.
C-SPAN, the Fix’s favorite television network, will be broadcasting many of the speeches live and we’ll be watching, listening and blogging closely. The Post will also have a strong contingent on the ground with Dan Balz, Amy Gardner and new addition Dave Weigel filing regular updates.
In the meantime, here’s a few storylines to keep an eye on:
1) Embattled Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele is scheduled to attend. He’ll be the talk of the gathering, the first time a large group of GOP officials and operatives have gotten together since the Voyeur controversy. How does Steele handle himself? And do any prominent Republicans break script and call on the chairman to step aside?2) From the second she arrives at SRLC to the moment she leaves, Palin will be under a microscope. (She is scheduled to speak Friday afternoon.) Of late, Palin has shown signs — her Democratic target list for 2010, for example — that she is willing to play nice with the party establishment. Does she maintain it with her speech?
3) Without Romney, Huckabee and Pawlenty in attendance, there is an opportunity for someone — Perry, Barbour, Indiana Rep. MIke Pence — to stand out and draw a bit of buzz coming out of the event. Who seizes that opportunity?
4) There will be a straw poll at SRLC. Texas Rep. Ron Paul’s supporters have pledged to deliver another straw poll win for their man — following on the heels of his victory at CPAC in February. If that happens, look for some within the party — including the leading 2012 candidates — to push for an end to these sorts of straw polls.
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