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Palin, Cruz, Huckabee and Santorum to travel to Iowa Freedom Summit

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WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and vice presidential pick, is headed to Iowa in January 2015 for a conservative gathering that will showcase no fewer than nine potential 2016 presidential contenders.

She’s one of the confirmed speakers at the inaugural Iowa Freedom Summit, an event organized by Iowa Rep. Steve King and conservative group Citizens United to “bring grassroots activists from across Iowa to hear directly from national conservative leaders,” per its website. The event is scheduled for Jan. 24.

Palin raised eyebrows last Spring when she said she’d “never say never” to a 2016 presidential run, and remains a star within the conservative wing of the GOP, but there’s little indication she’s moving forward with preparations for a bid.

If she ran, she’d face stiff competition for conservative support from a wide array of Republicans, many of whom will join her at the Iowa Freedom Summit.

Confirmed speakers for the event include Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, physician Ben Carson, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Republican National Committee fundraiser Carly Fiorina — all of whom are openly contemplating a presidential run or haven’t ruled it out.

Utah Sen. Mike Lee, the incoming chairman of the Senate Steering Committee, is also slated to speak.

The event will give the potential contenders the opportunity to test the waters with Iowa grassroots Republicans, which are key to any conservative presidential contender’s chances. A strong showing in the Iowa caucuses, the first contest of the presidential primary, signals to major donors and conservatives in other states that a candidate is a viable option for the nomination.

Notably missing from the first round of confirmed speakers is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has made no secret of his interest in running. His father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, posted a surprising third-place finish in the state’s caucuses in 2012, but the Pauls’ influence on the state has waned some in recent years.

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