[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/11/30/art.palin.928.jpg caption="Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in April."]WASHINGTON (CNN) - Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin will not be speaking at this year's Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, but she has accepted an invitation to speak at a higher profile event that could have implications for the 2012 presidential race.
Palin will speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, a major gathering of Republican officials, donors and activists from 14 southern states, organizers announced Thursday.
"I'm looking forward to addressing conservative activists from across the south at the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference," Palin said in a statement. "This is a great opportunity to listen and speak to those who are helping to set the direction of our party."
A Palin confidante said the governor is not being paid to speak at the event.
Political watchers will be paying close attention, and not just because several potential presidential candidates are expected to attend. The SRLC - "the most prominent Republican event outside of a Republican National Convention," the organization boasts - also conducts a presidential straw poll.
The straw poll has had a mixed record of predicting future electoral success. George W. Bush, who was then governor of Texas, won the poll in 1998, two years before his presidential bid. But former Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, who never mounted a presidential bid, took first place at the 2006 SRLC.
"We're excited to have Governor Palin join us in New Orleans. She represents the future of the Republican Party and will be a huge draw for conservative activists from across the country," SRLC Director Charlie Davis said in an accompanying statement.