Despite 2012 having the most pronounced gender gap in history, the Conservative Political Action Conference has still not caught on to the need to have strong female voices on their side. Out of almost 250 speakers at next week’s convention, only 77 are women. Of those 77, few are nationally recognized — and those that are probably shouldn't be speaking.
Here are CPAC's top 10 female speakers. Go ahead and decide for yourself whether you'll be tuning in to watch their speeches.
1. Sarah Palin
No, I’m completely serious. They gave her speaking time despite being shoved into almost total irrelevance after Fox News fired her and the former Alaskan governor parted ways. The former vice presidential candidate has been given a whopping 16 minutes of speaking time, more than anyone else on the docket. Ticket sales reportedly soared after CPAC announced she was the featured speaker. The conservative organization might be sending itself into a tailspin of national triviality with this choice, but hey, their members are digging it.
2. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.)
I’d be remiss to start two descriptions with the same sentence. So I won’t. But in “I’m totally irrelevant” move No. 2, CPAC gave a prime speaking slot to presidential also-ran Michele Bachmann. Last year she used her equally high spot to essentially lie about President Obama’s foreign policy record (something the Washington Post gave her “three Pinnochios” for) at a time when the Middle East and Israel were in turmoil. So, it will be interesting to see what she comes up with to rile up the crowd this year.
3. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.)
Ok, ok. I’ll stop poking fun at speakers now. Kelly Ayotte, the freshman senator from New Hampshire, will be speaking right after Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Her speech should shine some light on her future in the party, which has been a topic of conversation since her name was tossed around in Mitt Romney’s veepstakes during the 2012 election, and then again when she sided with Republican bigwigs John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) in loudly opposing Obama’s initial pick for Secretary of State, Susan Rice, and then his pick of Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. This chick could mean big things for the Republican Party in the future, so it will be interesting to see if she takes into consideration the criticisms of the party for being too socially conservative and exclusive of minorities.
4. Mia Love
Mia Love is perhaps the most diverse speaker at CPAC all on her own — she is the black, female, Mormon, first-generation American, former mayor of Sarasota Springs, Utah. Whew. Love, who also had a top speaking spot at the Republican National Convention last year, lost her bid for a seat in the House to incumbent Democrat Jim Matheson in the Utah's 2nd congressional district despite heavy fanfare from Republicans around the country who touted her as proof that the Republican Party was inclusive of minorities.
5. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.)
Blackburn is well known in Congress for being pretty fierce, even if she isn’t well known among American voters. She famously questioned Al Gore’s intentions by asking him if he would “personally benefit” from a piece of energy-related legislation, earning her accolades far and wide for putting him on the spot. In her 2011 CPAC speech, she obliterated Obama’s FCC for its attempts at “net-neutrality,” saying the new regulations would threaten innovation. While she doesn’t usually make the news — and probably won’t with this speech — her speech will be worth a watch. If it follows past examples, it’s sure to be original and passionate.
6. Chelsi Henry
Chelsi is one everyone should keep their eyes out for. The young, black law student was the youngest delegate at the Republican National Convention, and serves as an elected official in eight different capacities in Jacksonville, Fla. She’s essentially on a rocket towards Republican success, especially given her back story. Henry was born to a 16-year-old mother, grew up on welfare, and says she is the first Republican in her family. Can’t you just hear the campaign commercials echoing from your television sets?
7. Rep. Dianne Black (R-Tenn.)
It’s interesting that Dianne Black is obviously trying hard to regain her conservative mojo after being named a member of the Madison Project’s “Conservative Hall of Shame” in 2011. Only days after the start of the year she introduced a bill to defund Planned Parenthood (incidentally there was an identical bill introduced by Blackburn). She’s also attributed the Newtown Massacre to video games and violent music rather than gun control issues, and launched a war on Obama’s contraception mandate.
8. Carly Fiorina
The former candidate for the United States Senate and previous head of Hewlett-Packard will also address CPAC. She has been a shining star, though mostly behind the scenes, in the Republican Party for quite a while, and this isn’t her first time to address CPAC. Fiorina’s constant message that only in America is it possible to go from secretary to CEO resonates with the conservative base and she’ll probably stick to her usual talking points. They’ve gotten her pretty far.
9. Katie Pavlich
At just 24 years old, Pavlich is already a New York Times bestselling author and the news editor of Townhall.com. Her book, Fast and Furious: Barack Obama’s Bloodiest Scandal and the Shameless Cover-Up, breaks down the “gun walking” program that ended in tragedy. Pavlich takes a hard line on liberals in her widely-read posts on Townhall.com, and her strong voice will make her stand out at CPAC.
10. Jenny Beth Martin
Martin is the co-founder and CEO of Tea Party Patriots, a non-profit organization with 1,800 chapters and 15 million members around the country. In 2010, at the height of the Tea Party's popularity, she was named one of Time’s 100 Most Influential People, and despite the waning influence of the Tea Party nationally, Martin is still making a name for herself in conservative circles.