Rep. Allen West receives plum speaking slot at conservative gathering

Freshman Tea Party Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.) will deliver the coveted closing speech on Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).

West, the headline-grabbing lawmaker and former Army officer, said he was "humbled" to have been invited to deliver the closing keynote address at this weekend's conference.

West tweeted about it on Wednesday:

I've been asked today to have the honor of giving the closing keynote address at CPAC Saturday. I'm humbled.

Giving West the spot is just one of the many bows to the relatively new Tea Party movement at CPAC, arguably the most important annual gathering of conservative lawmakers and activists. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the founder of the House Tea Party Caucus, will deliver the conference's opening address.

The closing speech is also notable for who isn't delivering it, namely former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R). She declined the plum speaking slot and the conference overall, citing scheduling problems, despite the cattle call for 2012 contenders at this weekend's conference and the important straw poll of conference attendees.

By choosing West, CPAC sends an interesting message. The Florida freshman hasn't been afraid to clash with the GOP leadership in the House, and he enjoys a unique status as just one of two black Republicans elected in the House.

Still, the speech carries some political risk for West. He comes from a district that had voted for President Obama in 2008, and his 2012 reelection will almost certainly be competitive. Much like Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) in the last Congress, West could run the risk of being perceived by constituents as too interested in ideological battles in Washington.

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