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Grand Old Party II

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  A who's-who of national GOP figures will convene at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside next month for the Republican Leadership Conference (RLC). The gathering is a major stop for 2012 presidential hopefuls and potential candidates to meet the faithful and get some serious C-SPAN time.

  Among the speakers: politicians-turned-media figures Newt Gingrich and Mike Huckabee; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint; former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum; Reps. Michele Bachmann, Marsha Blackburn and Ron Paul; and Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.

  Louisiana speakers include Gov. Bobby Jindal, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Reps. Rodney Alexander, Bill Cassidy, Jeff Landry and Steve Scalise; pundit and political consultant Mary Matalin; and former state Rep. Tony Perkins, now head of the Washington D.C.-based Family Research Council.

  It's a follow-up to last year's extremely successful Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC). Roger Villere Jr., chairman of the state Republican Party, is enthusiastic about this year's round of speakers, which he says will also include former Gov. Buddy Roemer, the long-shot candidate who was excluded from the Fox News-sponsored presidential debate May 5. Roemer attempted an end run around the shoutout, participating in the debate by answering questions in real time on his YouTube channel, but viewer numbers were less than impressive. At press time, Roemer's views on job growth had received 29 views, health care, 40 views. Still, the affable Roemer is more than welcome at the RLC.

  "Buddy will be speaking," Villere says, "and we should know whether Donald Trump will be coming soon." Also invited are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Romney was a no-show last year; Palin's speech packed the Hilton ballroom.

  A straw poll at last year's event resulted in a tie between Romney and Paul at 24 percent each. Palin and Gingrich were next at 18 percent each.

  When the 2010 conference was held, Trump was still a real estate developer and host of the faux reality show The Celebrity Apprentice. Should he attend, the RLC might be a way for Trump to get some of his mojo back; in April, a Public Policy Polling survey had him leading the GOP pack with 26 percent support. On May 10 — one month later — he had fallen to fifth, with only 8 percent support. — Allman


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