J. Scott Applewhite, File, Associated Press
WASHINGTON — A trio of female firsts and three former GOP presidential contenders are among the first speakers disclosed for the Republican National Convention at the end of the month in Tampa, Fla.
The convention schedule is packed with high-profile names to fire up divergent wings of the Republican Party, from social conservatives to fiscal hawks. They will speak before Mitt Romney accepts the presidential nomination.
Convention leaders were not ready to announce the keynote speaker, a prime speaking slot that has the potential to catapult a rising member of the party to national prominence.
The schedule's outlines were first reported late Sunday by The Tampa Bay Times and were confirmed to The Associated Press by Republican officials with direct knowledge of the plan. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because convention officials had not yet announced the schedule.
South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, the first female governors of their states, are among party leaders slated to address the gathering that begins Aug. 27. Martinez has the additional distinction of being the country's first female Hispanic governor.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the first black female to hold that job, is also scheduled to speak.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona was set to speak, as well as a one-time rival, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. The two, along with Romney, vied for the 2008 presidential nomination. McCain outlasted Romney and the former Baptist pastor in the primary campaign.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who briefly ran for the GOP nomination in 2000, also was to speak at the convention along with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, whose state is playing host. Both are tea party favorites and are set to speak to fiscal issues many Republicans hold dear.
"They are some of our party's brightest stars, who have governed and led effectively and admirably in their respective roles," Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus said in prepared remarks. "These speakers — and those that will be announced later — will help make it a truly memorable and momentous event."
Republicans are holding back on announcing other speakers, including the keynote speaker.
In 2004, a little-known state senator from Illinois named Barack Obama used his turn at the Democratic National Convention in Boston to gain national prominence and — four years later — the White House.
When someone is announced as keynote speaker that could indicate that Romney has decided against that person as a running mate.
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida and Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are both big names in the party believed to be among those Romney is weighing for the vice presidential slot or for the keynote address. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio also were noticeably absent from the slate of announced speakers and may be contenders for running mate.
If passed over for the vice presidential pick, there is a very good chance they would earn speaking slots — if not the keynote.
The speakers already announced suggest where Romney is looking to make progress as voters start to pay attention to the fall campaign.
The all-important female vote clearly is a priority — evidenced by the choices of Haley, Martinez and Rice. Polls through the spring showed President Barack Obama outpacing Romney among female voters, although strategists from both parties say that gender gap is narrowing. A strong play for female voters at the convention should be expected.
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