Southern Republican Leadership Conference Kicks Off In New Orleans

06/08/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Conservative superstars from around country are descending on New Orleans for the annual Southern Republican Leadership Conference -- a four day event that is being called a preliminary audition for potential 2012 Republican presidential candidates.

The speakers at the conference include:

  • Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin
  • Texas Gov. and Republican Senate candidate Rick Perry
  • Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum
  • Texas Rep. Ron Paul
  • Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich
  • Fox News luminary Sean Hannity
  • RNC Chairman Michael Steele

Absent from the list are several potential GOP presidential hopefuls, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (who is featured on the SRLC's list of speakers, but reportedly has no plans to attend) and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza provides a list of things to watch for.

They include appearances by Michael Steele, who has been at the center of the RNC's controversial bondage-gate episode, Sarah Palin, as well as and the first large-scale straw poll since Ron Paul's resounding victory at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Experts offered some advice to the attendees at the conference, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Political observers from around the region said party leaders and keynote speakers would be wise to use the event both to energize their immediate audience, among the most enthusiastic, conservatives Republicans, while testing messages aimed at potential voters who may watch the proceedings on C-SPAN or take in smaller doses through other media.

UPDATE:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich plans to bring a new message to the GOP -- become the "Party Of Yes." Hotline's Reid Wilson reports:

"To win in 2010 and 2012, it's not enough to say no to the radical agenda of Obama, Pelosi, and Reid," Gingrich said in a statement. "Tonight's speech will explain why real leadership requires Republicans to offer a compelling vision of safety, prosperity, and freedom that stands in vivid contrast to Obama's secular, socialist, machine now running Washington."