CPAC to Feature Who’s Who in GOP, Sans McCain and Palin

Posted February 26, 2009 at 9:12am

Attendees at the 36th Annual Conservative Political Action Conference can expect a guest list that can best be described like an easy-listening radio station slogan: hits from the ’80s, ’90s and today.

And what was viewed in 2008 as a must stop for GOP White House hopefuls, this year serves as a brainstorming session for the next presidential election in 2012. The lineup features some familiar faces — current GOP Congressional leaders as well as the who’s who of past and future presidential contests.

Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), the House GOP’s budget guru, will kick off the three-day conference this morning, which is being held at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C. Rising Republican stars Reps. Aaron Schock (Ill.) and Peter Roskam (Ill.) will also speak on the first day of the CPAC conference about how a conservative voice can lead to electoral victory.

In addition to return performances by 2008 presidential hopefuls — former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas) — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, often mentioned as a 2012 contender, also is scheduled to speak.

CPAC regular, former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), whose entrance into the main ballroom in past years has enjoyed a State of the Union-like reception from attendees, will not only speak at the conference, but also will attend a movie screening following his address on Thursday.

Neither Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) nor Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who carried the GOP presidential banner in 2008, are scheduled to attend, but the ticket will be well-represented by Thursday’s 3 p.m. presentation of “Sarah Palin: Unplugged on the Media Video Interview” and an appearance on another panel by Joe Wurzelbacher aka Joe the Plumber.

The CPAC roster is studded with Members of leadership from both chambers of Congress, who will have the task of rallying the party base, while also trying to strike a positive tone.

Former Republican Study Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (Texas), who will not speak at CPAC but has been a featured speaker in years past, said Congressional leaders should have no trouble heeding that call. He suggested leaders focus on issues like the economy, and the GOP’s plans for how to revive it.

There are no seminars on the main schedule about the presidency of George W. Bush, but several former administration officials are also scheduled to appear, including former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton and former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao.

Scheduled between speeches by pols and book-signings by right-wing luminaries like Grover Norquist are appearances by conservative media stars Joe Scarborough, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh.