When Sarah Palin speaks in public, she always finds the media spotlight. Or maybe the spotlight finds her.
Either way, he former Alaska governor will again be firmly in front of the cameras Friday afternoon, when she addresses the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, Louisiana.
The three-day event is billed as the largest GOP gathering of party officials, operatives, activists and strategists before the 2012 Republican National Convention, when the party will formally nominate its candidate for president.
While the 2012 election may seem far in the future, early jockeying is already under way, and the conference is considered the first real cattle call for possible Republican White House hopefuls.
The conference is "kind of like the jump-start for the 2012 presidential cycle," says Roger Villere, the Louisiana GOP chairman and one of the organizers of this year's conference.
While only Palin knows whether she will indeed make a bid for her party's presidential nomination, it's a safe bet that her speech is the most anticipated of the eight possible White House hopefuls who are addressing the convention.
The other seven are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who spoke Thursday night; Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, who is chairman of the Republican Governors Association; Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal; Texas Gov. Rick Perry; Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who was a 2008 Republican presidential candidate; Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana; and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania.
Three others who are most likely considering presidential bids are not attending: Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who ran for the GOP presidential nomination in 2008; Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty; and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who also was a candidate last time around.
Palin has found the political spotlight shining on her quite often so far this year. The 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee gave the keynote address at the first National Tea Party Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, in February, which was carried live by cable news networks. So was her speech at a campaign rally in Arizona last month for her running mate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who is attempting to fend off a primary challenge from the right from former Rep. J.D. Hayworth.
And Palin was the main attraction on the cable news networks the next day, as she helped kick off the third Tea Party Express national bus tour. The event was held in Searchlight, Nevada, hometown of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who also faces a very tough re-election this year. Tea Party Express is backing efforts to defeat Reid in November.