The Republican Leadership Conference is underway in New Orleans. Its two-day straw poll is one of the first major tests of organizational strength for the Republican presidential candidates, most of whom have addressed the gathering. While Mitt Romney bypassed the event as part of his general policy of avoiding straw polls — he gets accused of buying them when he wins and it is embarrassing whenever he loses — sources on the ground say both his supporters and Ron Paul’s are working hard behind the scenes.
There will also be a battle of sorts between Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain, both Tea Party favorites with one strong debate performance apiece. Newt Gingrich, who gave a barnburner of a speech yesterday, and Tim Pawlenty would stand to benefit from a strong showing as well. Rick Santorum and Gary Johnson also spoke, as did possible candidate Rick Perry. Jon Huntsman canceled his appearance because of a cold.