Some of the Republican Party's presumed presidential hopefuls will be in Memphis this March to meet with party activists and try to gain momentum for their campaigns.

The Southern Republican Leadership Conference will meet March 9-12 at the Peabody Hotel.

A number of presumed candidates, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist of Tennessee and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, are scheduled to attend and speak.

Also confirmed are Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, another possible presidential candidate, and Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.

"I'm the only keynote speaker they could find who's not running for president," Alexander joked.

Two dozen others have been invited, including party heavyweights John McCain, Rudy Giuliani, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Karl Rove, and many will attend.

Political experts say the event can boost the chances of success for some candidates, or put a damper on the hopes of others.

"I think the leadership conference will be the first major cattle show before the 2008 election, and it should be pretty much mandatory attendance for any candidate seeking election in 2008," said Charlie Cook, author of the Cook Political Report.

Alexander said he predicts a big crowd of both candidates and conferees. He likens the conference to a spring training game before the real competition of the primary campaign season begins in 2007.

"It's as close to an early national forum as one can find," he said. "It attracts a large crowd of Republican activists who could help candidates in the early primaries. It ought to be a lot of fun."