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GOP Conference Returning to New Orleans 

Republican Leadership Conference invites hot pols in the party to the June meeting

  Last April's Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) in New Orleans was such a success that organizers are planning a sequel — of sorts. The Republican Leadership Conference (RLC) will be held June 16-18 at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside. (There's no "Southern" in the title this time; according to the invitation, organizers say, adding, "We're inviting the nation.")

  Last year's SRLC featured speeches by Louisiana pols including Gov. Bobby Jindal, Sen. David Vitter (who received a standing ovation), Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao and Rep. Steve Scalise. Among the other big names who attended in 2010 and are invited back this year: former Alaska Gov.-turned-reality-TV-star Sarah Palin, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and others. C-SPAN devoted many hours to live coverage of the speeches from the Hilton ballroom, and Fox News personality Sean Hannity broadcast his show from the hotel's lobby.

  If you want to know who's gained stroke in the GOP during the last year, the list of new invitees should provide a clue: Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. If you want to know who's not quite so hot with the RLC — the name of former President George W. Bush appears nowhere on the event website.

  This year's guest list and agenda have not been finalized and released, and RLC representatives did not return calls before press time. This year's event, however, coincides with the 100th birthday of the late Ronald Reagan, and a Saturday night gala "centennial celebration" of the Gipper is on the agenda.

  Last year's SRLC drew 3,500 people for four days of speeches and networking (this year it's three days), capped with a straw poll for attendees' preferred 2012 GOP presidential candidate. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul came in first with a virtual tie. Tied for second: Gingrich and Palin. Kevin Allman

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