The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will have a significant Tea Party presence this weekend, even though Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has declined an invitation to attend the national event sponsored by the American Conservative Union Foundation.
According to ABC News, Representative Allen West (R-Fla.) — a Tea Party favorite and freshman Congressman — has been selected to provide the keynote speech on Feb. 12. The three-day conference commenced on Feb. 10 at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C.
West's appointment to talk at CPAC represents a new era in conservative politics. A member of the House Tea Party Caucus, West is an African-American Republican and a former Army officer. Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, two prominent media personalities, delivered the keynote speeches over the past two years.
Driven by the Tea Party movement, the GOP notched sweeping victories in last November's midterm elections, gaining control of the House and adding seats in the Senate. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, was scheduled to deliver CPAC's opening day keynote speech.
Palin, a Tea Party favorite, will be the most notable absence. Former Senator Rick Santorum (R-Penn.) recently criticized Palin for skipping CPAC, saying that she must have "business opportunities" that are keeping her from attending, according to Politico.com.
Santorum was referring to Palin's paid speaking engagements that have helped her accrue an annual income rumored to be as high as $30 million per year, the media outlet reported.