Paul’s victory in an unscientific straw poll revealed plenty about the state of conservatism. Narrowly, it revealed that Paul’s quixotic 2008 bid for president created a significant and growing movement of libertarian-minded teens and twentysomethings whose role in the conservative coalition will become more clear outside of CPAC. More broadly, it provided a look at the ideological hardening going on within the conservative movement as it girds for the 2010 elections. According to some polls, the Republican Party is on track to recover control of Congress and have a voice again in how America is governed. At CPAC, there was far less attention on how the party would govern America than on the need to disavow its past, popular embraces of “big government” and on the need to embrace a hardcore libertarian philosophy that views environmentalism and the progressive movement as fatal threats to freedom.
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