New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) - It's 10 a.m. local time and it's already 89 degrees outside.
Inside, presidential politics will be heating up in a few hours, when Rick Perry will take the stage here at the Republican Leadership Conference 2011.
The longtime governor from neighboring Texas wowed the crowd at this conference last year (when it was held at the same New Orleans hotel), but what's changed since then is that the battle for the GOP nomination is in full swing and Perry is now saying that he's thinking about a bid for the White House (although he acknowledges he thinks about a lot of things). Perry's been sounding like a presidential candidate the past few days, especially in New York City earlier this week, where he headlined a local Republican party dinner.
The conference ends later on Saturday with the results of a Republican presidential nomination straw poll. Voting is open to the approximately 2,000 delegates - GOP activists and other hardcore party supporters from 38 states across the country. Perry and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is also considering a White House bid, are not included on the ballot, but delegates can write in their names.
A number of 2012 presidential contenders, however, are listed in the straw poll. On the ballot are former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Utah Gov. and former U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman, Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson and former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain. All are either declared candidates or have announced they will declare their candidacy later this month.
Also on the ballot is Sarah Palin. The former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee has said she's contemplating a bid for the White House, but has not taken any concrete steps to form a campaign. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, who's also thinking of making a run for the GOP nomination, is on the ballot, as is Former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who has taken steps towards a campaign but has not declared.
RLC2011 President and CEO Charlie Davis tells CNN that it was the decision of organizers of the event to not include Perry and Giuliani.
In last year's straw poll, Romney edged Paul by a single vote to win. Paul spoke here yesterday, as did Bachmann, Cain and Santorum. Gingrich spoke Thursday, on the conference's opening day. Huntsman was scheduled to speak but called in sick. Romney and Pawlenty did not attend the gathering.
Davis tells CNN that the straw poll results should be a good indicator of how GOP activists and donors feel about the race for their party's presidential nomination.
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