WASHINGTON (JTA) — Newt Gingrich will address the AIPAC policy conference.
The former U.S. House of Representatives speaker, who is trailing in the race for the Republican presidential nod, is the first in the GOP field to announce his participation in the March 4-6 conference.
Gingrich is slated to speak March 5, a day after President Obama.
The last time a challenger faced an incumbent, when Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) was running against President George W. Bush in 2004, AIPAC said its policy was not to allow challengers to speak. But the AIPAC board has ended the policy, a source close to the lobby told JTA, in part because Kerry and his supporters among AIPAC donors were furious at the snub.
AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton confirmed the policy change.
"In 2004, just after the election, the AIPAC Board of Directors adopted a policy to invite all the leading presidential candidates in future elections to speak at the Policy Conference," he said.
The policy conference coincides with the run-up to the Super Tuesday primaries on March 6, when 10 states go to the polls. Super Tuesday is seen as a make-or-break day in the contest.
Gingrich has close ties with AIPAC, working with the group when he was speaker in the 1990s to pass the law recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is among the notables scheduled to speak at the conference.