Sarah Palin to Make Keynote Speech at CPAC

AP Photo

Sarah Palin will be the keynote speaker at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 11, after four years of consistently rejecting the top spot at the high-profile conservative conference in Washington, D.C.

"Few national conservative leaders in America today energize and inspire our grassroots activists like Governor Sarah Palin. Her strong record of leadership, championing of our shared principles and magnetic personality have made Sarah Palin a hero to millions of conservatives across the country," American Conservative Union Chairman Al Cardenas said in a statement. "As we ready for the critical 2012 election, I'm honored to welcome Governor Palin to the Conservative Political Action Conference for the first-time ever."

The former Alaska governor has a rocky history with the group.

She declined to keynote the event in 2011, citing a scheduling conflict. But her refusal to participate fueled speculation that she wasn't going because of GOProud, a gay Republican group, that planned to attend. She denied that was the case. Her political action committee, SarahPAC, did sponsor a reception at the convention.

In 2010, Palin cited ACU's business dealings, particularly those of its then-chairman David Keene, as the reason for dodging CPAC.

In 2009, she initially accepted an invitation to kick off the convention, but then dropped out, saying that she had to attend to the "duties of governing." She sent a taped message instead.

And in 2008, Palin cancelled her speech just two weeks before the event. By then, she had not been named Sen. John McCain's vice presidential candidate, but in 2007, the man who would eventually become her running mate was booed by the crowd.

Palin's standing in the CPAC straw poll has tumbled over the years. She came in ninth in last year's poll, after a third place finish in 2010 and 2009, behind Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.

GOP candidates Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum will attend this year's convention, as will Ann Coulter, Sens. Jim DeMint and Marco Rubio, among others.