Ron Paul Wins CPAC Straw Poll

CPAC2010Ron Paul beat out Mitt Romney in the 2010 CPAC straw poll, with Sarah Palin finishing a distant third.

Jonathan Martin and Jessica Taylor of Politico note that the reaction to the announcement was less than polite.

Rep. Ron Paul, the libertarian-leaning Texas Republican who ran a quixotic bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, was the top vote-getter in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s straw poll, capturing the support of 31 percent of those who participated in the contest.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who had won the CPAC straw poll for three consecutive years, took 22 percent of the vote. Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin won 7 percent and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty 6 percent. Pawlenty attended the conference; Palin did not.

Paul’s victory renders a straw poll that was already lightly contested among the likely 2012 GOP hopefuls all but irrelevant as the 74-year-old Texan is unlikely to be a serious contender for his party’s nomination.

As the results were displayed on twin large screens in the ballroom — and even before Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio could announce who won — a cascade of boos came down from a crowd that views Paul and his fervent supporters as an irritant. Paul’s backers responded with cheers, though, when their candidate was then proclaimed by Fabrizio as the winner.

CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.

As I noted at the outset of  the conference, straw polls in general and the CPAC straw poll in particular are meaningless. Sam Brownback beat out John McCain in the 2007 straw poll and Romney beat McCain in 2008.   As some will recall, McCain nonetheless went on to secure the nomination.

In this case, we see that Ron Paul can get out a lot of students to a limited participation contest and so can Mitt Romney.  From Sarah Palin’s poor finish, we can see that you’re unlikely to do well in the straw poll if you don’t bother to attend the conference.

As to the booing, I wouldn’t take much from that, either.  It’s an energized gathering of activists — mostly very young ones — who are predisposed to disliking everyone but their personal favorite.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Michael Reynolds says:

    I can see where you’d want to dismiss Ron Paul. He’s an embarrassment to conservatives in that he actually has convictions. His beliefs aren’t a function of who wrote him a check, or what will advance the economic interests of his side. And he doesn’t seem to play the game of wink-wink bigotry to expand his base.

    I don’t generally agree with the guy but at least he’s not the abject fraud most “conservatives” are.

  2. anjin-san says:

    I am with Michael on this. I don’t hold with a lot of what Paul says, but he seems like a guy who works hard, thinks things through, believes what he says and does not pander for support. In short, someone who deserves some respect. It’s not hard to see why a lot of what passes for conservatives today would not dig him.

  3. John425 says:

    Heard elswhere: The “Ronulans” have been replaced by the “Paulistinians”.

  4. truthBetold says:

    Ron Paul does not pander to special interest groups and is grounded in true conservative principles that breaks through the barriors of our partisan, left/right political system. As Dems and Reps continue to argue amongst themselves, and nothing gets done, we should focus our attention on what the role of gov’t should be. The U.S. Constitution is pretty clear as well as the founders of this nation. Personal liberty, sound money, limited Fed. gov’t, non-interventionist foreign policy, and capitalist system that is free from cronyism. This is the direction the real Tea Party wants and freedom lovers everywhere want.