ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
UPDATED: Sarah Palin might not have wanted the closing-night keynote speaking slot at one of the country’s largest conservative gatherings, but Rep. Allen West, a freshman Florida congressman and Tea Party favorite, certainly does.
“I've been asked today to have the honor of giving the closing keynote address at CPAC Sat,” West tweeted on Wednesday morning. “I'm humbled.”
The selection of West, an African-American Republican and former Army officer from Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, represents a departure for officials with the Conservative Political Action Conference, who chose two prominent media personalities — Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh — to deliver the closing speech over the past two years.
The speech will give a big boost to Tea Party forces, who are already poised to be a major presence at the convention that begins on Thursday in Washington , DC. West recently joined the House Tea Party Caucus, which is chaired by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn, who is delivering the conferences opening day keynote speech. The congressman took part in a Tea Party Express town hall meeting in Washington on Tuesday night.
“Congressman West epitomizes the core conservative values CPAC attendees treasure: a basic belief in human freedom, traditional values, and a love of country based on an appreciation of the nation’s founding documents,” said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, which organizes CPAC. “We at CPAC watched with excitement last year as one our own, Congressman West, won one of the most important Congressional races in the country and conveyed his conservative beliefs to Washington. His fulsome efforts on conservative issues important to his constituents and his thoughtful leadership among the newest Members of the U.S. House make him the perfect keynote speaker for this year’s conference.”
But West’s selection is also something of a disappointment for conference organizers who originally tried to book former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the slot. Palin turned CPAC down last week, citing scheduling issues.
“We’re disappointed that she wasn’t able to make it this year,” American Conservative Union Chairman David Keene said through a spokesman last Thursday. He noted that Palin "expressed interest in wanting to come this year.”
West, whose district includes Ft. Lauderdale, defeated Democratic incumbent Rep. Ron Klein last November. The congressman will take the podium on Saturday night after the results of the CPAC presidential straw poll are announced.