Conference to host GOP presidential debate in July

An annual conservative conference in Las Vegas plans to host a Republican presidential debate on July 10.

Invites probably will go to White House hopefuls who have announced they're running by then or at least formed exploratory committees, according to Chuck Muth of Citizen Outreach and one of the conference's organizers.

"Who wouldn't want to come to Vegas in July," Muth joked, saying he expected all serious candidates.

A GOP presidential debate would raise Nevada's profile in the 2012 White House race higher. Already the state is scheduled to hold an early Republican caucus in February 2012 following the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary.

President Barack Obama won Nevada in 2008 by 12.5 percentage points, giving him an edge over the GOP here.

The scheduled debate will come on the second evening of the July 9-10 Conservative Leadership Conference, to be held at M Resort. The conference, in its fourth year, attracts hundreds of conservative activists, bloggers and leaders.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Godfather's Pizza CEO Herman Cain have both launched exploratory committees, the first step toward an official bid. Muth said he expects the debate also will draw potential GOP candidates such as former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, former House Speaker New Gingrich and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson. All have visited Nevada either this year or during the 2010 campaign cycle.

Moderators will be Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, and Tucker Carlson, editor of the conservative Daily Caller, according to an announcement on Thursday. The anti-tax group and Daily Caller are sponsoring the debate.

The first GOP presidential debate, sponsored by Fox News, is scheduled for May 5 in Greenville, S.C.

Contact Laura Myers at or 702-387-2919.