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John McCain, Nikki Haley among those to speak at RNC

Senator John McCain of Arizona (above) is set to speak, as well as a onetime rival, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
Senator John McCain of Arizona (above) is set to speak, as well as a onetime rival, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. (AP/File)

WASHINGTON — A trio of female firsts and three former GOP presidential contenders were among the first speakers disclosed Monday for the Republican National Convention at the end of the month in Tampa.

The convention schedule is packed with high-profile names to fire up divergent wings of the Republican Party, from social conservatives to fiscal hawks. They will speak before Mitt Romney accepts the presidential nomination.

Convention leaders were not ready to announce the keynote speaker, a prime speaking slot that has the potential to catapult a rising member of the party to national prominence.

Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Susana Martinez of New Mexico, the first female governors of their states, are among party leaders slated to address the gathering, which begins Aug. 27. Martinez has the additional distinction of being the country’s first female Hispanic governor.

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Former secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the first black female to hold that job, is also scheduled to speak.

Senator John McCain of Arizona is set to speak, as well as a onetime rival, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.

Governor John Kasich of Ohio, who briefly ran for the GOP nomination in 2000, also was to speak at the convention along with Governor Rick Scott of Florida, whose state is playing host. Both are Tea Party favorites.

When someone is announced as keynote speaker, that could indicate that Romney has decided against that person as a running mate. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin are both big names in the party believed to be among those Romney is considering for the vice presidential slot or for the keynote address. Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Rob Portman of Ohio also were noticeably absent from the slate of announced speakers and may be contenders for running mate.

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Palin stumps for Republican candidate in Missouri race

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Sarah Palin is mounting an aggressive campaign in Missouri — in television and radio ads, in automated telephone calls, even serving barbecued pork sandwiches at a rural political picnic. She is urging residents to vote for Sarah Steelman, one of three Republicans in a prickly US Senate primary.

Fresh off a resounding runoff victory by Ted Cruz in Texas, Palin and the Tea Party movement are trying to capitalize in primaries this month in Missouri, Wisconsin, and Arizona. But those states could pose a more difficult test than in Texas, where the charismatic Cruz waged an outsider’s campaign.

In Tuesday’s primary in Missouri, conservative loyalties are fractured among a trio of candidates preaching a smaller-government message while splitting the endorsements of conservative celebrities. In Wisconsin, the would-be Tea Party beneficiaries are up against a political icon — former four-term governor Tommy Thompson. In all three states, millionaire businessmen are self-financing campaigns focused more on a Main Street message of job creation than a direct Tea Party appeal.