Republicans who can't wait for an advance preview of the 2016 GOP presidential primary campaign should mark the last weekend in May on their calendars and book their flights for New Orleans, site of the 2014 Republican Leadership Conference. Among the names already announced for the three-day event are Texas. Sen. Ted Cruz, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Utah Sen. Mike Lee, Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, Tennesssee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Florida Rep. Allen West, businessman Donald Trump and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. RLC spokesman Ryan Cross said that further speaker confirmations will be announced in coming weeks.
"The road to the White House begins in New Orleans," said Cross, noting that previous conferences have attracted more than 3,000 Republicans from 47 states as well as reporters from more than 100 national media outlets. The RLC's presidential straw poll will test "who can make a strong showing" among conference attendees in an early barometer of 2016 preferences, Cross said.
Of course, a crucial mid-term election still awaits in November, and the May 29-31 conference at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel will emphasize a theme of "party unity" in advance of the fall campaign, Cross said. "We expect to frame the conversation for the 2014 mid-terms, to take back the majority in the Senate and maintain Republican control of the House," he said.