Rand Paul Wins Meaningless CPAC Straw Poll: A Family Tradition
Rand Paul is carrying on a family tradition, winning the CPAC straw poll won many times by his father Ron.
Rand Paul is carrying on a family tradition: winning the CPAC straw poll.
USA Today (“CPAC: Paul edges Walker in straw poll“):
Rand Paul won a high-profile straw poll for a third straight year Saturday, capping an annual conservative conference at which delegates argued about how to turn their ideas into a presidential victory in 2016.
The Kentucky senator carried 25.7% in the Conservative Political Action Conference poll, while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker finished second with 21.4% — a closer-than-expected tally in this early test of political strength among conservative Republican activists.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, finished third with 11.5%, followed closely by retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 11.4%.
Former Florida governor Jeb Bush — perhaps the most criticized candidate at this conservative conclave — finished fifth at 8.3%.
Other potential presidential candidates — including Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, and Rick Perry — had less than 4% in the straw poll. Paul also won CPAC contests in 2013 and 2014.
POLITICO (“Rand Paul wins CPAC straw poll, with Scott Walker right behind“):
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won the presidential straw poll at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference — his third such victory in a row. But Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came in a strong second, reflecting a rising popularity among the GOP grassroots.
Paul earned 25.7 percent of the vote and Walker took 21.4 percent. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a favorite of the GOP establishment and donor class but not so much of the conservative base, finished fifth with 8 percent, results showed.
Paul’s showing illustrates his popularity among the GOP base, but a straw poll win at CPAC, even one held just a year out from the first primaries and caucuses, is no guarantee of a presidential nomination. The event draws a strong contingent of libertarians, a group long identified with the Paul family, and although it is a barometer of Republican activist sentiment, it is not especially representative of the broader party. Supporters of certain candidates also often bus in attendees to CPAC and buy them passes in an effort to provide friendly audiences for their speeches and boost their straw poll results.
The meaninglessness of straw polls in general (notably the Iowa Straw Poll that gets so much quadrennial coverage) and the CPAC poll in particular have been a regular subject for OTB over the years. See Doug Mataconis’ “Rand Paul Wins Meaningless CPAC Straw Poll” from two years ago and my “Ron Paul to Win CPAC Straw Poll Again!” from 2011 for exemplars of the genre.
To update, below is the list of winners in the history of the poll, with those that correctly predicted the Republican nominee in the next presidential election year highlighted:
1976 Ronald Reagan
1980 Ronald Reagan
1984 Ronald Reagan
1986 Jack Kemp
1987 Jack Kemp
1993 Jack Kemp
1995 Phil Gramm
1998 Steve Forbes
1999 Gary Bauer
2000 George W. Bush
2005 Rudy Giuliani
2006 George Allen
2007 Mitt Romney
2008 Mitt Romney
2009 Mitt Romney
2010 Ron Paul
2011 Ron Paul
2012 Mitt Romney
2013 Rand Paul
2014 Rand Paul
2015 Rand Paul
Thus far, the poll has been conducted 21 times. Only in 1980, 1984, 2000, and 2012 did the winner of the poll go on to win the Republican nomination in the next cycle. None of the polls conducted in anything but an election year predicted the eventual nominee. It’s too early to say definitively that Rand Paul will follow in his father’s footsteps in not getting the nomination ever, much less in 2016; but I’m certainly willing to bet heavily that this will be the case. As I snarked way back in 2007, when eventual 2008 nominee John McCain came in dead last:
[I]f the contest is going to be decided by the number of college students that can be turned out with the promise of a free t-shirt and a pizza party, Brownback has a strong chance. If it’s based on a willingness to pretend that you read blogs, Romney is the definite frontrunner. And, if it’s based on being the only reason to give up a Saturday sitting around a cramped convention hotel surrounded by screaming teenagers, Gingrich can’t be discounted.
As noted in the POLITICO essay and in several OTB postings on the subject in the past, CPAC is just wildly unrepresentative even of the Republican nominating electorate. It’s overwhelmingly made up of college students and DC-based politicos. It’s simply too expensive for normal people, even those deeply interested in conservative issues, to travel to DC for three days. Plus, it’s monumentally boring unless you’re a journalist or otherwise can use it to catch up with acquaintances.
The 2011 convention was the last one that I attended and, as the tone of my postings that year made clear, I had long since grown cynical about the experience. It’s essentially the same tired speeches year after year. The best ones simply rehash the greatest hits of the early 1980s and the worst ones are an embarrassment. As Steven Taylor, who didn’t attend the event that year (or, so far as I’m aware, any other CPAC) rightly noted, it’s essentially a Star Trek convention for political geeks:
Ultimately these types of meetings allow like minded people to gather for an event that is as much social as it is anything else. One gets to see friends and acquaintances that one might otherwise not get to see as well as to encounter celebrities (at least as defined by the specific group), peruse merchandise of especial enticement to the group, and to hear talks on issues of interest. Yes, it is possible that attendees will learn something new, but on balance these types of things tend to be more pep rally than education events.
All of this is just fine, but the fact that so many people are taking an event like CPAC so seriously strikes me as yet another example of the problem of the conservative movement at the moment. Just as it treats talk radio and cable new hosts as if they are intellectual guides of the movement (rather than entertainers) many are treating CPAC as a serious gathering of thinkers (rather than a combo social gathering and pep rally).
Nothing wrong with pep rallies or social gatherings, but let’s treat things for what they are. The seemingly yearly treatment of CPAC as if it is profoundly important is a bit farcical. I just wonder if it isn’t a symptom of a broader set of problems for conservatives.
That Rand Paul and Scott Walker, neither of whom could plausibly win the presidency, are the favorite sons of CPAC is rather damning. The good news for Republicans, however, is that, if the history of non-election-year CPAC straw polls is any indication, they’re almost certainly not going to get the nomination.
George Allen…..Memba him??? Seems if anything, winning the CPAC straw poll is followed shortly thereafter by the end of one’s political career.
I’m intrigued by your comment that Mr. Walker cannot win the election. Aside from the underlying electoral architecture that favors the Democrats, can you expand on that?
@michael reynolds:James also thought Obama’s former Ambassador to China was a plausible candidate to unseat Obama.
“I’m intrigued by your comment that Mr. Walker cannot win the election.”
Seconded. As an outsider to Republican primaries, I don’t see this at all. Walker strikes me as someone whom no one in the party will veto on policy grounds, and so has a reasonable chance at winning just there. Add to that a reasonable resume and a message which plays well to the base and he strikes me (and has for many months) as a decent bet.
Walker will, inevitably, do or say something at some point to enrage those who refer to themselves as “principled conservatives,” and they’ll refuse to vote for him on the grounds that he’s just another RINO progressive elitist.
@CSK: Here’s how it works: if Walker is nominated and goes on to lose in the general election, it will be because he’s a RINO progressive elitist. If he wins the presidency, it will be because he’s a True Conservative. And if his presidency becomes an epic, Bush-like disaster, it will be because he was a RINO all along.
I’m not getting it – compared with Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz, Rick Perry, Donald Trump and Mike Huckabee, exactly how are Rand and Scott defective? I don’t think they are.
In fact, I believe that Scott Walker in particular stands a damned good chance of winning the GOP nomination – he’s anti public employee union (except for police unions, that is), and he supports the Brownback-Jindal method of state finances, wherein you purposely create instability and deficits to finance tax cuts. He seems to me to be in synch with the conservative scorched-earth wing of the Republican Party.
Can’t speak for James Joyner, but I can speak for this James:
I think anyone who “plays well to the base” has very little chance of winning a national election, and that would be true of any candidate, right or left.
There may be a Top Ten list in the making here. “Top Ten Most Boring Things About CPAC”
– Being a featured speaker at it
– Winning the straw poll
– Reading about it
– Writing about it
– Attending it
– Listening to people who were excited by it
– Listening to people complain about it
I’m still a few items short. Any ideas?
I’ve come up with another one:
– Coming up with ten things that are boring about it
Walker could conceivably win the nomination (or, rather, have his bosses the Kochs buy it for him). He can’t, however, win the presidential election. At this point, given the Blue Wall of electoral votes the Democrats have erected, no Republican can unless he sweeps every single in-play or toss-up state.
For a Republican to win the presidency at this point in time, Obama would have to do something crazy like oh, I don’t, know, precipitate the greatest foreign policy disaster in American history, lose a major American city to a storm, and destroy the global economy….
Being forced to sit through endless re-runs of Phil Robertson’s diatribe about Jesus, Nazis, STDs, the Bible, STDs, Nazis…
@michael reynolds: Walker is incredibly polarizing from his standoff with the teachers union which introduced him to a national audience.
@PD Shaw: I thought Huntsman could win if nominated; I never thought he could get nominated.
@al-Ameda: The firebreathers do well at CPAC and early straw polls. They don’t win the nomination. GHW Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney have won all of the post-Reagan nominations. Each of them beat out firebreathers. Jeb Bush is the odds-on favorite right now.
Even Andrew Cuomo is in a “polarizing stand off” with the teachers union. Rightly or wrongly, the public is increasingly drawing a distinction between teachers unions and the teachers themselves, and being seen to be in conflict with the teachers unions is not the disqualifier it might have once been.
It depends. Walker’s stance against unions is quite well undermined by his exclusion of the police and fire unions from his proposals, which renders the situation more of an attempt to nullify a perceived political adversary than any sort of serious fiscal planning.
Add to that the unfortunate fact that people, by and large, like police officers and firemen. They undervalue teachers, which makes them an easy target for a politician.
I would expect that any reporter with more than a third grade education will waste no time asking him why he exempted those two unions, and only those two, while targeting all of the others.
There is no really good answer that he can give to that question.
” At this point, given the Blue Wall of electoral votes the Democrats have erected, no Republican can unless he sweeps every single in-play or toss-up state.”
That makes him no less and no more of a person who could plausibly win the Presidency than any one else at CPAC. So, not what James meant.
“Walker is incredibly polarizing from his standoff with the teachers union which introduced him to a national audience.”
What percentage of Republican primary voters does this standoff harm Walker with? I’d be surprised if the number is over 5%.
What percentage of general election voters does this standoff harm Walker with? Likely not enough to keep him from reaching 50% +1 in enough states to win. This type of stand supports, and does not detract from, a conservative-populist message which is likely where a Republican wants to be to oppose Hillary.
Unless, of course, one compares those teachers to terrorists…
Because Freedom! Fiscal responsibility! Tax and spend! Benghazi! ISIS! Squirrel! Squirrel! Squirrel!
There. I’ve now answered that question to the satisfaction of approximately 95% of all Republican voters.
@Rafer Janders: I find the inclusion of Squirrel to be incredibly unfair to Dug the Dog. 😉
Seriously…we’re going to hire a college dropout, fixated on slashing education spending in order to find tax cuts for the wealthy, as President???
Tiaibi is right…he would be a gift to Democrats.
Whatever happened to the “equal protection clause”? Seriously.
Since Superdestroyer is apparently taking the day off… Who cares who wins the straw poll that fails to predict who will win the nomination of the party that can never win because of so many people are racist against the party of white men? When Obama’s amnesty goes into effect, brown people will use their social security numbers to vote for whoever gives them stuff.
Someone might make my peanut butter and jelly sandwich into a taco, and I don’t want a PBJ Taco!
It’s like THE JOHN BIRCH SOCIETY had a meeting to find the birchiest of the group, and then coronate them with a crown and roses….It has zero traction outside the doors of the event…
@Rafer Janders: I don’t think the Democrats are in nearly as secure a position as you think. The map certainly favors Democrats right now, but a weak campaign or a scandal could quickly reverse that.
Assuming the Dems nominate Clinton, this comes down to whether Bill will be caught with another woman, again. Do you like those odds?
I don’t care what Slick Willie does, but to a lot of people, Hillary will seem weak if she can’t keep her husband in line. And not just Republicans — I would expect a fair number of soft Democrats to stay home because they really just don’t want another four to eight years of Bill Clinton’s sex life on their TV.
The only two electable Republicans I see are Mr. Walker and Mr. Bush. I don’t think the union issue will kill Walker, but the smug may. Bush has shown no campaigning chops, but he’s clearly the “moderate” of the bunch. The rest are assorted clowns and frauds and non-entities, or, like Paul, too far out even to hold their own party.
If Hillary stays healthy, if her husband stays under control, if her campaign doesn’t become bloated and lazy, she’ll win. I’d give her 55% of the female vote to start, and she’ll have the black, Latino, Asian and gay vote. That leaves white males.
When I look at the map I just don’t see many (or any) states that Mr. Obama carried that she’s likely to lose. But I hate complacency. She needs to fight this like she’s five points down.
Interesting that Democrats have a weak bench and yet have a natural emergency fill-in should Ms. Clinton crash and burn: Ms. Warren.
There is, actually, and it will probably be in similar form to this:
“Those are the unions of public safety and first responders. Whatever the negative effects of public employee unionization are, they are outweighed by the importance of providing union protections and benefits to our police and firefighters. They are special, and should not be subject to the pressures of the marketplace.”
Whether or not you agree with that (and with the unstated implication the rest of the public employees are entirely dispensable), it will likely carry a lot of weight with voters who hold police and firefighters in high regard.
@Gustopher: Bill and Hillary are entirely known quantities at this point. Even the most blatant “bimbo eruption” on Bill’s part would hardly get more than a shrug from the great majority of voters, and the ones who protested the loudest wouldn’t have voted for Hillary no matter what.
People also tend to view them as individuals rather than a unit, which means they would probably sympathize with her were some indiscretion on his part come to light.
Which I alluded to above – people like firefighters. They mostly like police officers. They undervalue teachers in the extreme, which makes it easy for politicians to attack them.
The underlying dynamic is pretty clear – both the police and fire unions were supporters of Walker. They got rewarded. The teachers union wasn’t. It got attacked.
That said, it misses the broader point – if unions are bad, then why did Walker support some unions while attacking others?
If you guessed “suppressing the political opposition,” you’d be correct. The guy is a hypocrite, and he’ll get asked that question once he ventures out of Wisconsin.
He’ll also have to answer for why his policies have essentially wrecked Wisconsin’s economy, while Dems have Minnesota humming along with a growing economy and a budget surplus.
That’s the discussion I look forward to.
Don’t sell Dandy Randy short.
He has shown at least two qualities of a veteran politician.
His ability to cut and run is documented.
And his use of humor to pander to the homophobic fears of citizens is well honed.
The U.S. is never going to elected a college drop out. Also, Gov. Walker comes off horribly on television and thus will not only lose but lose badly.
At least James is admitting that conservative politics is dead in the U.S. One has to wonder about the people who attend CPAC who seriously believe that the Republicans can win in 2016. It should be obvious that these people are incapable of reading polling results, incapable of addition and subtraction, and completely incapable of understanding demographic trends in the U. S.
The next two significant events in politics in the U.S. will be in 2016 when the Democrats win control of the Senate and in 2022 when the Democrats regain control of the House. I wonder if anyone CPAC will still have a meeting after 2020 and if they do, whether the media will feel compelled to cover a totally irrelevant group.
I agree. I’m actually sympathetic to the notion that public employees ought not be able to strike and am especially not a fan of teachers’ unions. But I thought Walker’s actions were heavy- and high-handed. The fact that it came out of the blue rather than being a central feature of his campaign made it simply outrageous.
Oh, by no means. But what I have been saying for years now is that simply running on Ronald Reagan’s platform from 35 years ago won’t work. “Conservative” is a moving target, especially on social issues. And, frankly, starting with Bill Clinton, Democrats have acceded to the most popular parts of Reagan’s message: big defense and low taxes. So, running on even lower taxes while pushing an increasingly outdated social agenda is simply not a winning strategy at the national level.
Beyond that, too much of what passes for conservative politics today is simply meanspirited. Even Reagan understood the need to talk about “safety nets” and other issues of compassion even while pandering on “welfare queens.”
Plus he has admitted to flip-flopping on immigration so he would probably get minimal Hispanic support.
I don’t disagree with you at all on his motivation, I’m just telling you what I think he’ll answer with. Will it play outside Wisconsin? Another question entirely.
Well, yeah, sure….but mostly backwards.
Just out of curiousity…name a single Conservative in good standing with today’s Republican Party?
Definitely going to be a one party state. Definitely.
Four minutes to Wapner.
I dunno – Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh seem to do alright for themselves. Though to be fair, they’re not running for POTUS
And how many elections have Hannity and Limbaugh won? That would be zero. Entertainers are not subject to the same level of credentialism that the rest of us experience.
Considering that either a graduate of Harvard or Yale has been in charge since January 1993, I do not think the U.S. is going to suddenly switch to electing people who drop out of second tier colleges.
“Considering that either a graduate of Harvard or Yale has been in charge since January 1993”
January 1989, but who’s counting? Bush the Elder graduated from Yale as well.
Opps, Thank you. Also, Bush I beat Dukakis who was a 1960 graduate of Harvard Law School. 1984 was the last time the U.S. had two non-Ivy leaguers competing for the presidency.
What is interesting in Bush I was the last president to only have an undergraduate degree. I suspect that every president in the future will no only be an Ivy League graduate but will hold a graduate/professional degree from an Ivy League school.
Against that optimistic viewpoint is the fact that Wisconsin returned him to office, despite his record of failure. It’s seems plain to me that conservative voters really don’t give a d@mn about economic performance, so long as “their” team wins.
A problem too is the media is reluctant to call failure for what it is, out of fear of showing “liberal bias.”
You seriously expect an American poltiical reporter
A) acquiant themselves with policy
B) ask a politician hard questions about it.
I suspect you’re better off hunting for lions in Antarctica that have “serious” reporters doing any of that.
@C. Clavin: I strongly suspect that Walker will be a gift for democrats, but raising the college issue is a huge gift for him. That gives him a perfect opportunity to talk about his rags to riches story, and complain about elitism, and have really good points on both accounts.
No…though to be fair, they are pulling the strings of the Republican POTUS Candidates.
It’s kinda similar to the moronic attacks on Sonya Sotomayor when the was appointed to Supreme Court: if she was an affirmative action undergrad, and then climbed the ladder to the Supreme Court, that is only an argument in support of affirmative action. In the same way, Walker can argue, the fact that he had to drop college to go to work and then rised to be governor is a proof of his hard work and good ethics,etc, and not a bad mark against him.
Perhaps…but to me it says…Walker can’t finish stuff.
Seriously…a President in the 21st century with a HS diploma?
We can agree to disagree…but a college drop-out slashing education funding is a negative that isn’t ever going to be explained away (to anyone but the base) by Walker’s story, whatever it ends up being.
I agree. The college dropout thing is elitist and will bite whoever brings it up.
I’m a high school drop-out as well as a college drop-out, so I can tell you from personal experience that it confers a strange sort of power when wielded by someone confident and accomplished. See, I hold my own among my peers despite the fact that all of them have diplomas, almost all of them have degrees, and a lot of them have advanced degrees. With all their advantages, I’m still in the top 10% of people in my very competitive field.
Play it right and it ends up putting the better-educated (privileged) on the defensive.
@C. Clavin: Again, the fact that Walker managed to become a governor, and survive a term, means, for anyone but the hardest of the hard core of political junkies, means that he is actually able to accomplish things.
@michael reynolds: I have ridiculously more education than you, and judgin by the fact that you are publishing a book a year or so, while i struggle co cobble together an article, means that you are probably much better in finishing things…
Presidents have a long history of playing up their humble ” man of the people” background. Remember Lincoln, the “Railsplitter?”
Even the GWB ran as the “man you would like to have a beer with” against “elitist” Al Gore. Amd Michael, I’m sure you are old enough to remember Spiro T Agnew, running against George McGovern and his “effete ciorps of impudent snobs”.
Not to mention Richard Nixon, of the Checkers speech ( ” my wife has a respectable Republican cloth coat”.)
Frankly, Scott Walker looks a lot like Richard Nixon to me ( only not as smart) and appeals to the same demographic.And whatever we think about Nixon, he won lots of votes nationwide by pressing the same buttons that Walker did in Wisconsin
Scott Walker is no Steve Jobs, or Bill Gates. Or for that matter Michael “Reynolds”.
Glenn Beck, maybe.
How easy will it to be to saddle him with:
Thus drawing him into a discussion about the importance of education….which he is busy slashing funding for.
@C. Clavin: I’m with Reynolds on this. That would come off as a below-the-belt attack and would reflect poorly on whoever said it.
Also, given that nearly 60% of Americans aged 25-29 have “some college” but only about 45% of the same group reports having actually earned an Associate’s or Bachelor’s degree, the Democrats hitting Walker for quitting college could easily backfire, creating sympathy for Walker in a sizable chunk of young voters, a demographic that normally votes heavily Democrat.
He isn’t slashing education funding. He is cutting “waste, fraud, and abuse” in a sector dominated by “far left eggheads” who always “blame America.” etc.
This has been in the Republican playbook since the late sixties. Scott Walker is perfectly situated to run that play again.
How dare you, sir! How dare you imply that I’m old enough to. . .
Okay, fine, I remember Agnew. In fact, I had a minuscule role in bringing him down. When I was 19 I worked for Wilmer, Cutler and Pickering in DC (Now Wilmer Hale). I was a law library grunt, messenger and occasional purloiner of not-yet-released documents and giver of cash to those who arranged such things.
We repped Time Magazine IIRC and there was some legal dustup going on between Agnew and Time. (Again, this is 40 years ago, and my memory. . . what was I saying?)
One fine day one of the lawyers came to the library and asked after a source in English common law that I gather he wanted to cite. During the period he was talking about English law was written in French, and I was the only guy who knew his way around the stacks at the GW and Georgetown law libraries and could read French.
I found what the lawyer was looking for. He said something along the lines of, “Ah hah! We’ve got him now!” Although I imagine I’ve rewritten that in memory to be more dramatic.
Next day, Agnew resigned.
So, as you can see, I singlehandedly destroyed Spiro Agnew.
Glad you took down Spiro. Were you in the Falklands too? :-).
OK. I actually accept your account as truthful here, unlike Bill-o’s account of his heroics in the Falklands . And I didn’t want to out you as being over 30. Folks, go on back to believing that the above picture of the gentleman in front of the bridge is not Mike,but some older guy.
You are making the same mistake that conservatives made with Obama: because you dislike Walker, you presume that people that have no strong opinions about him, or any other politician, will embrace your reading of his life.
Yeah but I have an advantage: I get to just make stuff up. You probably need, you know, facts.
But it’s two books a year. 800 pages give or take. It’ll be one book when I retire.
What rags to riches story? The guy has essentially had one private sector job, fundraising for the Red Cross. He’s been on the public dime in one role or another since the age of 25.
For me, the important factoid about his university career is that he left in his senior year with a 2.59 GPA. He’s clearly a mediocrity, but sadly, conservative voters seem to like mediocrities.
For someone who ostensibly hates government, though, he’s certainly made a tidy living off of it.
Gov Walker has explained why he exempted the Police & Fire Unions. It wasn’t their turn to be brought down. He had to divide before conquering.
That seems to be true for a lot of these anti-government types…they probably couldn’t do jack$hit in the private sector but they keep trashing the sector that has buttered their bread forever…
So what is your preferred mechanism for them to get treated fairly by their employer. Prayer? Seriously, enquiring minds want to know…
@An Interested Party:
Walker’s fellow Wisconsinite, Paul Ryan, being the poster boy. He hands out copies of Atlas Shrugged, apparently to underline the irony.
Well let us not forget the conservative shibboleth that unions are nothing more than slush funds for the Democrat (sic) Party…why should workers have the right to form unions anyway, when they would be much better off simply counting on the kindness of their employers…