The results of the CPAC straw poll of presidential candidates are in, and the winner is Ron Paul, with 30% of the vote. Mitt Romney was the runner-up with 23%, and all other candidates tied with about 6% each.
84% of the voters identified themselves as fiscal conservatives, placing their highest priority on economic growth and restraining the growth of government.
Kasie Hunt explained in Politico this morning why Paul -- who also won last year -- was likely to win again, and how Paul's supporters have pursued a strategy of swamping straw polls at conservative and Republican events around the country. She writes:
While his ardent supporters aren't numerous enough to win him actual primaries or caucuses, they've mastered the unofficial straw poll format and they've decided those informal polls send an important message. Case in point: The Paul forces are already organizing for June's Republican Leadership Conference and Ronald Reagan Centennial Celebration straw poll and Iowa's traditional Ames straw poll in August....
The Paul supporters are almost obsessive about the polls, and they have one goal: to get the media's attention in an attempt to prove Paul is a viable candidate for president....
The results of the grass-roots straw poll efforts speak for themselves: Paul won the 2010 CPAC poll and finished second behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference poll -- by just one vote. He also placed second in New Hampshire's WMUR/ABC News straw poll of state Republican Party activists in January.
During the 2008 presidential election, Paul won small straw polls in at least 10 states. He rarely broke into double-digits in the real caucuses or primaries that year, but he would often win by a landslide in the straw polls -- he took 4 percent in the Arizona primary, for example, but swept a Phoenix straw poll with 80 percent of the vote.
National Review assessed the meaning of the win:
CPAC brass played down the results. "The straw poll is not a poll; the straw poll is entertainment for the people that are here," says David Keene, the former president of the American Conservative Union, in an interview with National Review Online. "He won it last time because he was the only one running. Even I could win it if I was the only one running. He is the only one who seems to focus on it exclusively."
Grover Norquist, the influential taxpayer advocate, tells NRO that Paul's win is far from meaningless. "If you are running for president, you need to be able to connect with the activists," he says. "This is a measure of how connected you are to activists, especially the young activists. Some people talk about the money primary -- this is the activist primary."
Paul's growing following on the right, Norquist predicts, could shake up the 2012 race, especially on issues close to the Texas congressman, like monetary policy. "It's like 1988, when Pat Robertson ran for president," he observes. "Robertson brought a whole collection of people into the Republican party." While acknowledging that some Republicans find Paul supporters "strange" for their dogged focus on the Federal Reserve, the fresh faces, Norquist says, are "very healthy" for the future of the GOP.
Thumbnail image credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon
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