Do I pay much attention to prominent conservatives? No, only since the Goldwater presidential campaign. Seriously, probably more than is necessary. Some conservatives I like, but I draw the line at the ad hominem and strawman attacks that Buckley and his cohorts launched. By the way, Anne Heller in her Rand bio mentions that Rand use to have Buckley over to her apartment to discuss the communists-in-government investigations that Joseph McCarthy had been making. Must have been in the early nineteen-fifties.I had not seen that mentioned elsewhere.
Usually, references to theit first meeting are based around her reported retort to Buckley at some party, "You are too intelligent to believe in God!" These introductory remarks I believe were first recounted by Buckley in an article included in an anthology, "What Is Conservatism," where he defines conservatism by those that he either threw out (Revilo P. Oliver), walked away (Max Eastman), or were never invited in (Robert Welch, and of course Ayn Rand). Since Buckley delighted in publicizing anything that would put Rand in a bad light, I thought that this story might be apocryphal, or something that he had fabricated.
Several year's ago, I had occasion to talk to Henry Mark Holzer, and Phyllis (then Erika) Holzer, after a presentation that he made. Both were members of Rand's Inner Circle, and Henry was her lawyer for many years. I mentioned the alleged conversation between Rand and Buckley, and asked them, since they knew her so well, "Is that the sort of thing that Ayn would actually say, upon being introduced to Buckley?" Somewhat to my surprise, they both thought the story was true and in any event, it would not have been out of character for her to say.
What does this have to do with your questions? I mention it because Buckley is such a central figure in the development of the conservative movement in the last half of the 20th century. Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) was started at a conference he held at his mansion in Sharon, Connecticutt. The American Conservative Union is a development created by YAFers, Buckley, and others, after Barry Goldwater's defeat in 1964. The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) is a creation of ACU, which has controlled who will speak at, and even what groups are allowed to display, at the conference.
To my knowledge, no self-described Objectivist has ever addressed this conference, nor has any Objectisvist-related organization been an exhibitor, with the exceptions of The Atlas Society in 2005 (in which Ed Hudgins was on one or two panel discussions) and, I think, two more times. They discontinued because they did not attract enough interest from CPAC attendees to continue. And of course, now, at the upcoming CPAC2013, in which the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights will be one of the exhibitors. As far as I could tell from reading the conference agenda (updated daily), no Objectivist is either making a presentation or being included on any of the panel discussions. The agenda topics are entirely related to the current conservative movement (with a strong emphsis on ant-abortion) and to opposing Obama. Nothing wrong with that, but if we are to make nice with conservatives, it would have been nice to see a gesture from their camp, such as at least token Objectivists included on the agenda. But there is none.
While (some) conservatives take umbrage at "atheism," I would have thought that some libertarians would be at least be represented. After all, conservatives arealso advocates of the "free market," So far, Cato is not listed as an exhibitor and I did not see any of their representatives listed as speakers.
From everything that I have said here, you might conclude that I oppose Objectivists making some type of common cause (on specific issues) with conservatives. No. Considering what has happened with Mr. Thompson now re-elected, those that oppose collectivism had better marshall their forces. To change the direction of this country is going to take a lot of work. From everyone.
Regarding CPAC2013, anyone can attend, To those who think it will be awelcome atmosphere, go try it and see. Maybe things are changing for the good, but I don't see much evidence. Just a word of friendly warning, Strangers taking a walk into Dodge City would be advised to be (intellectually) armed.