This weekend, thousands of southern Republican activists met in New Orleans in the traditional kickoff for the next presidential campaign. There were a number of speeches by GOP leaders and hopeful candidates, culminating in a straw poll where attendees got to choose their favorite presidential candidate in 2012.

Of the speeches, the most electrifying was by Sarah Palin, the only one of the orators able to move the audience from its torpor. During her talk, the audience rose to its feet repeatedly in applause and loud screaming; when she concluded, the audience surged the stage to get close enough to touch her or take her picture. A number of women held up lipstick in solidarity with Sarah or had signs bearing her name.

Other potential presidential candidates made speeches or met with delegates. Gary Johnson, former governor of NM ate breakfast on Friday with a number of donors, and then met with delegates for the rest of the day. Rick Santorum gave a stem winder on Saturday as he hopes to fill the Brownback role in the next campaign. Bobby Jindal spoke as governor of the host state. Liz Cheney praised Palin during her talk, and attacked Obama’s foreign policy. Tim Pawlenty, governor of MN, and Mitt Romney both decided not to speak, or even attend, lest their dry styles be compared to the effervescent former Alaska governor.

For the straw poll portion of the activities, the conference permitted individuals to decide to strike their names from the ballot. Three southern governors (Rick Perry, Haley Barbour, and Jindal) all availed themselves of this option. Those who sought the victory, or at least didn’t remove their names, were Romney, Pawelenty, Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mike Huckabee, Mike Pence, Santorum, Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson.

Romney and Paul were the only two who were in evidence organizing for the straw poll. The results provided evidence of this. Romney defeated Paul by one vote, with each receiving 24% of the vote. In third place was Palin with 18%, followed by Newt, also with 18%.