- - Thursday, February 19, 2015

A crop of 2016 Republican White House hopefuls and stars of the conservative media firmament are on the list as organizers of the Conservative Political Action Conference put the finishing touches on the speakers list for this year’s gathering.

The four-day event, considered one of the prime political dates on the calendar for conservative officeholders and activists, kicks off with a daylong activist “boot camp” Wednesday and concludes the evening of Feb. 28 at the Maryland’s National Harbor just outside of Washington.

Republican presidential contenders now scheduled to speak include former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, retired neurosurgeon Ben S. Carson and former business executive Carly Fiorina.

Organizers say they hope to modify the CPAC tradition of serial campaign speeches by requiring the candidates this year to focus on specific issues and engage in more give-and-take with the conservative activists who flock to the event. CPAC has long been considered a key vetting opportunity for candidates to impress the Republican Party’s core conservative activist base.

Sarah Palin, former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, is scheduled to talk at CPAC, as is freshman Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, considered a rising conservative star in the party. Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee is one of the members of the House Republican caucus set to speak.

Among the media stars on the agenda are Fox News host Sean Hannity, conservative radio talk show hosts Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham and Brent Bozell III, president of the conservative press watchdog Media Research Center.

A nonpolitical figure on the CPAC agenda will be “Duck Dynasty” star Phil Robertson, who will be given the First Amendment Award from the conservative nonprofit Citizens United after defending his Christian beliefs on homosexuality and other topics, resulting in his brief suspension from the reality show.

The award is given in memory of conservative media activist Andrew Breitbart.

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