Gov. Sarah Palin's next act on the national stage could come as early as February, at a major conservative convention in Washington, D.C.
The annual event is called the Conservative Political Action Conference, and Palin was supposed to be the keynote speaker last February, long before she became a household name as the Republican choice for vice president.
When Palin couldn't make it, Vice President Dick Cheney took her place.
The convention isn't affiliated with the Republican Party, but big-name Republicans make a point of stopping by. It's where presidential candidate Mitt Romney conceded to John McCain this year, and where McCain drew boos from self-described "Reagan conservatives" -- and national headlines -- when he talked about immigration.
Now the 2009 convention is just two months away, and Palin is expected to speak to the thousands of conservative activists and college students that attend each year, director Lisa De Pasquale said in a phone interview Monday.
A Palin spokesman said it's no sure thing.
It would be the third time Palin has left Alaska -- and claimed the national spotlight -- since losing the Nov. 4 election. She spoke at a Republican Governors Association meeting in Miami during the second week of November; earlier this month, she campaigned in Georgia for Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss before meeting with President-elect Barack Obama in Philadelphia along with a group of other governors.
That last trip drew complaints from local Democrats who said Palin's time would be better spent at home on state business. At the time, a spokesman said the governor had been hard at work on Alaska issues and compared her time campaigning to a vacation day.
"We actually saw her at the (Republican Governors Association) conference and she reiterated that she did want to be there, " De Pasquale said.
But Palin spokesman Bill McAllister said Palin has merely been invited and that she has not confirmed. "It's not scheduled, she's not told them yes."
The CPAC has asked Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan to be the keynote speaker this year, but everyone's asking about Palin, De Pasquale said.
McCain, meantime, wasn't invited to speak.
Many conservatives saw McCain as too moderate, with Palin leaning harder to the right on social issues.
De Pasquale said the conference -- held Feb. 26-28 -- is about conservative up-and-comers and people the sponsors want to hear from. "It just hasn't come up," she said of a McCain invite.
De Pasquale said the group doesn't pay speakers, and doesn't cover travel or lodging bills.
So who would pay those costs if Palin attends?
"As she hasn't confirmed, ipso facto, we haven't crossed that bridge yet," McAllister said in an e-mail.
Find Kyle Hopkins online at adn.com/contact/khopkins or call him at 257-4334.