From NBC's Mark Murray
Next month, prospective GOP presidential candidates -- Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Rick Perry, Haley Barbour, Newt Gingrich, Mike Pence -- will gather in New Orleans to speak at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. Mitt Romney was the only prominent potential 2012-er who was skipping the event.
But the AP is reporting that Pawlenty is now pulling out. "Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has withdrawn from a major Republican gathering in New Orleans next month to attend a welcome-home ceremony for soldiers returning from Iraq. Pawlenty canceled his planned April 10 trip to the Southern Republican Leadership Conference, billed as 'the most prominent GOP gathering prior to the next national convention.' A recognition ceremony for the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Red Bull Infantry Division is set for the same day in Minneapolis."
Pawlenty spokesman Alex Conant emails First Read: "SRLC is a great event and the governor was looking forward to meeting a lot of conservatives activists there. But he can't be in two places at once. As Commander-in-Chief of the Minnesota National Guard, he had a responsibility to welcome home these troops from their mission in Iraq."