April 8th, 2010
11:02 AM ET
10 years ago

2012 in the spotlight at GOP conference in New Orleans

Ron Paul is among a number of possible 2012 presidential contenders that will be attending this year’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

Ron Paul is among a number of possible 2012 presidential contenders that will be attending this year’s Southern Republican Leadership Conference.

New Orleans (CNN) - Nearly 4,000 GOP insiders are descending on New Orleans Thursday for the start of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, thought by many to be the unofficial kick-off to the 2012 presidential cycle.

Along with speeches from party leaders, the SRLC agenda includes strategy sessions, local food tastings and even a GOP-themed film festival - not to mention several days behind-the-scenes networking and a sampling of the city's abundant food and drink. The conference is taking place just steps from Bourbon Street.

The Republican National Committee and Republican Governors Association, eager to fill their coffers in a midterm election year, are also holding fundraisers to piggyback off the gathering, which takes places every four years.

But the main draw, especially for the 130 credentialed media organizations in attendance, will be the parade of potential presidential contenders.

Louisiana Republican Party chairman Roger Villere, one of the event's organizers, described the conference as "the jump start for the 2012 presidential cycle."

Among the possible White House candidates: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

That roster has two glaring omissions, however: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, the two Republicans who done the most to signal their 2012 intentions, are skipping the conference.

Romney is busy with his book tour. Pawlenty was initially slated to speak, but changed his plans to attend a welcome home ceremony in Minnesota for troops returning from Iraq. He will instead address the conference with a recorded video message, an aide said.

Gingrich will open the event with a speech Thursday night, along with Liz Cheney and GOP strategist Mary Matalin.

Political observers will be keeping a close eye on the results of 2012 straw poll – to be released Saturday – which could be an indicator not just of a potential candidate's organizational strength, but also of his or her reputation among the party's professional class.

Unlike the Conservative Political Action Conference - an annual event geared in large part toward grassroots activists and college-aged volunteers - the SRLC is considered a more establishment event. The crowd will include a mix of elected officials, top party strategists, political consultants and state party officials from around the region.

As a result, Palin's showing in the Big Easy will be closely scrutinized. Though few doubt her strength and influence within the Tea Party movement and among conservative grassroots activists, many rank-and-file Republicans are not sold on the notion of Palin as a serious presidential contender.

According to a CBS News poll released Thursday, just 43 percent of Republicans have a favorable view of the former Alaska governor.

Though the GOP is outwardly confident about it's chances in this November's midterm elections, the conference also comes at a difficult time for the party, which has been mired in controversy for more than a week after it was revealed that the RNC paid for an outing at a sex-themed Hollywood nightclub.

That disclosure resulted in the resignations of several top advisers at the RNC and has chairman Michael Steele on the defensive over questions about his financial stewardship of the committee.

Steele is scheduled to address the conference on Saturday, and he is expected to meet privately with a number of party insiders in the coming days. Though Steele has been in contact with members of the committee since the scandal broke, he will see many of them face-to-face when he gets to New Orleans.

Villere said that Steele's rocky tenure will definitely be a matter of discussion for himself and the other committee members who made the trip to New Orleans.

"Everybody is concerned, concerned with the fundraising issues and the image of the RNC," Villere told CNN. "We want to support the chairman, everyone wants to support the chairman. We're hoping this event gives us a chance to talk about it. I would think there is going to be some serious discussion about the future."

soundoff (75 Responses)
  1. Dumbasrocks [R]s

    The spotlite is on 2012 for the do-nothing, know-nothing party, because these neo-morons are starting to see the writing on the wall for 2010. The hate-America campaign by the [R]s since Nov. 2008 is wearing on all of us 'real Americans'.

    April 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  2. Felix_Colorado

    I like Obama. But if Ron Paul runs I will vote for him. He would be the only Republican that I would vote for... if only he was in a third party.

    April 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  3. Ben Straub

    Ron Paul is the guy that I would trust to be honorable in governance. He is an intelligent man that has been right about pretty much everything that is happening to our country currently.

    April 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  4. patricia c

    grand wizard also?

    April 8, 2010 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. Fitz In Texas

    I'd take Ron Paul over what we have now any day and I would bet my last penny millions and millions of others feel the same way.

    April 8, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  6. Hawk in Texas

    Thats all new orleans needs. 4.000 drunk idiots, it is plain to see that all the republicans do not care about the needs of the people. they just constantly are running for reelection. after the 2012 elections the will be running for office the next day. all they care about is filling their pockets with corporations money.

    April 8, 2010 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  7. Edward Veidt

    Ron Paul kind of looks like Ian McKellen... would he become President Gandalf or President Magneto? I do not know.

    April 8, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  8. BestProfitCompany = WAR

    Ron Paul the last "real" republican. As a Democrat I support this last republican. It is too bad the rethuglicans treat him poorly. And it is too bad Ron Paul doesn't have true leadership skills, he should start his own party, Libertarian Party!!! Because rethuglicans don't like his populist ideas, especially on the War and US Troops!

    April 8, 2010 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  9. Gordon Shumway

    I could support Ron Paul like I supported Ronald Reagan. It could finally be a realistic chance to get the Libertarian agenda in front of Americans. I believe the response would be tremendous. It would most certainly alienate those who would rather take than give, those on the receipts of handouts. But, it would strengthen the US plitically, economically and most assuredly, morally.

    April 8, 2010 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  10. Texas Doc

    Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal? Add to this the Tea Party and it is a slam dunk! Obama and Democrats 2012 in a landslide.

    April 8, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. Sarah the baby seal basher

    Wow,look at that list of names.Ron Paul is the brightest bulb in the room and hes scares me with his lack of brain power in World affairs.

    April 8, 2010 11:24 am at 11:24 am |

    Oh yeah, time to party in NOLA!!

    We partied in Hawaii, we partied at the strip club, and now we're going to throw beads! Mo' strip clubs, mo' strip clubs! This party knows how to party!

    Meanwhile, folks are unemployed.

    April 8, 2010 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  13. SpringGambit

    Among the possible White House candidates: Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Indiana Rep. Mike Pence, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Texas Rep. Ron Paul and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

    I would like to personally thank the GOP for what is proving to be one of the most humorous runs for the white house yet.

    With the individual leadership skills each of these potential GOP candidates hold, I imagine picking just one will tax even the most die hard republican . . .

    April 8, 2010 11:27 am at 11:27 am |
  14. Randolph Carter, I'm no expert but...

    Maybe they should go talk to all of the people in New Orleans who are being kicked out of perfectly good public housing which is being bulldozed to make way for "mixed use"develpoments. Thanks, greedy politicians. Look at poverty statistics for the suburbs of big cities around the nation if you don't believe me. This year's census data should be very revealing. It appears eminent domain is the new manifest destiny. Have a nice day!

    April 8, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  15. shadysider

    Paul's the only one I would think of voting for out of that list. You're either fiscally responsible or you're not. You're either deluded with thinking foreign intervention without reason is good for our country or not. I'm with Paul. Unfortunately, we all know Conservatives will try to subvert him again. They can't stand his non-corporation backing and non-interventionist (without reason) stand on foreign affairs. Which means I'll probably be voting for Obama again. When will the Republican Party understand that they are bowing to the whims of the uneducated, socially conservative base of the party. They are mostly retired and unemployment isn't even their issue.

    April 8, 2010 11:29 am at 11:29 am |
  16. Jos

    Mr. Gopers,

    You all are bunch of loosers, if at all you want to get elected come out with some kind of platform with open mind. so far you all idoits have no chance against Mr. President OBAMA. First time in the history American people have elected Intelegent, carring and most loveable President. so don't mess up and ask your party to support his agenda. You all have to go beyond fearmongering and cut tax policy . we are in 21st century and American people are tird of you and your policies. Make my word Saraha is not a presidential material. she has no brain only un educated will follow her, get out from tonnel vision and look out side what's happning in the world....................

    April 8, 2010 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  17. Jack

    Hope some of that good old wholesome sin in N'awlins rubs off on those good Christian/family value types. As long as they don't get caught with their pants down. Wouldn't want another mea culpa. What a sad lot. Bunch of middle-aged, rich white guys (and a couple women and blacks thrown in to look good) trying to "take back America." From whom? The Middle Class? Bring back the days of the Robber Barons when there was no gov't regulation or, for that matter, no middle class? I'm from the most diverse neighborhood in the most diverse city in the country. It's a fun place to live and America is looking pretty optimistic from where I sit. We're not giving it back to the rich. We're keeping it because the GOP will never figure out that they have lost touch with the Real America. .

    April 8, 2010 11:35 am at 11:35 am |
  18. hal

    This list is a joke!! We need to have a strong candidate. I feel there are 2 possible "strong" candidates- Jon Huntsman, Jr. and Paul Ryan. There aren't any other people that would be strong enough to get Obama out. The Republicans would be foolish to think otherwise.

    April 8, 2010 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  19. Ray Jackson, Ms

    I hope the people of new Orleans give them hell. After Bush's response to Katrina it is an insult for republicans to show up in the city.

    April 8, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  20. Dan B.

    If Ron Paul wins the straw poll, Romney or Palin will be declared the front runner. That's the script that was followed at CPAC. Hopeully, We the People won't be fooled by the corporate
    media again. There is a clear and distinct reason why the Corporations and Military Industrial Complex that has taken over the political process in this country will never allow the corporate media that they own to shine a favorable light on Mr. Paul. Romney and Palin supporters are trying to stack the deck, but if Paul wins the SRLC straw poll, the message told will be that Paul and his supporters stacked the deck. Just watch. Keep in mind that Palin has been planning for SRLC for months, while Paul wasn't invited until his win at CPAC a few weeks ago.

    April 8, 2010 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  21. Stacie

    43% of republicans have a positive view of Sarah. Wow, that's a silent majority of republicans who can't stand her. Along with the overwhelming percentage of democrats who can't tolerate her, her current popularity rating must be similar to W's at the end of his second term. Please go with her for 2012 GOP!

    April 8, 2010 11:40 am at 11:40 am |
  22. We Hold These Truths To Be Self Evident

    You know, I was once criticized on my performance review for promoting myself too much within my corporation. This despite the fact that I did my job. I was an ambitious, highly educated (Ivy league MBA), experienced, credentialled woman.

    How is it that these politicians get to continuously run for office and it be OK? They never spend anytime doing the things they were hired to do ... they are never "legislating or governing".

    I, for one, am tire of hearing about the next elections before the ink is dry on the last one.

    April 8, 2010 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  23. Sniffit

    Believe it or not, I like this guy despite my loony left leanings. I don't agree with his policy positions, but I tend to find confused, well-meaning elderly imbeciles to be kinda cute. He's what Mr. Magoo would be like if Charley spiked his pipe with a nugget of strong chinese opium and read him Rothbard while he was in the throws of his hallucinatory dream world (never to resurface).

    April 8, 2010 11:53 am at 11:53 am |
  24. Henry Miller, Libertarian

    Well, GOP, you get another chance, and, once again, a lot depends on how well you treat Ron Paul.

    For a lot of us former Republicans, Paul is as close as you can get these days to a true Conservative and all you authoritarian, self-righteous, neo-cons are frauds who say a lot of the right words but, when it comes to deeds, routinely express your disdain for the rights and freedoms of American citizens, routinely ignore the principles of small government, and routinely waste money almost as badly as the Democrats do.

    The Tea Party is still a bit rough around the edges, a bit like Sam Adams' rabble rousers just before the American revolution, but if the GOP is to have a future, it needs to take very seriously what Paul and the Tea Partiers have to say.

    April 8, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
  25. Thomas, Baton Rouge, LA

    Beware of the strip clubs, lol.

    April 8, 2010 11:56 am at 11:56 am |
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