NPR logo Ron Paul Wins Another Poll, But What Does It Mean?

Ron Paul Wins Another Poll, But What Does It Mean?

Another run for president in '12? I'm guessing yes. hide caption

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Another run for president in '12? I'm guessing yes.

Sarah McClary of Dayton, Ohio, has this question:

Ron Paul wins the CPAC straw poll? What's going on with the GOP?

Two points here.

First, the supporters of Paul — the Texas Republican congressman who sought the GOP presidential nomination in 2008 — are better than anyone else I can think of in mastering the art of flooding and winning straw polls. They proved that throughout the '08 primary season. But while his backers were passionate and his rallies heavily attended, Paul was not a factor in the race for the nomination; a fifth-place finish in both Iowa and New Hampshire was indicative of the problem. The votes, when it counted most, were not there.

Last year in this blog, when I decided to hold a not-so-serious "Political March Madness" brackets poll on who would be the 2012 Republican nominee, an astonishing 963,719 votes were cast — and Paul was the big winner.

My concluding words at the time: "And whatever this means, or doesn't, regarding 2012, it does prove one thing — that his supporters are committed and passionate."

And that's still the case.

At last week's straw poll held at the Conservative Political Action Conference, Paul came out on top, receiving 31 percent of the 2,395 votes cast, ahead of Mitt Romney (22%), Sarah Palin (7%), Tim Pawlenty (6%), Mike Pence (5%), and Newt Gingrich & Mike Huckabee (4% each). Trailing even further behind were Mitch Daniels, Rick Santorum, John Thune and Haley Barbour.

About 10,000 people attended the conference. Paul's victory ended Romney's three-year CPAC winning streak.

As for your second question, CPAC is less about the GOP and more about the conservative movement. There's no indication that its straw poll, or any straw poll for that matter, is representative of what the Republican grass roots is feeling. Romney, in fact, won the 2008 straw poll over John McCain even though he was already out of the race.

But it should also be pointed out that when the CPAC crowd learned that Paul had won the straw poll, a chorus of boos came from the crowd. Maybe some of the boos came from conservatives who object to Paul's opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and his somewhat unorthodox views on monetary policy. Perhaps some came from Republicans who feared the effect Tea Party advocates could have/is having on the party. And maybe some came from CPAC organizers themselves, who must have realized that the mainstream media would immediately dismiss the relevance of any straw poll that Paul won.

The point is, no one, outside of the Paul hard core, thinks he is going to be the GOP presidential nominee.

So while I may dismiss his chances, I don't dismiss the passion and energy of his supporters. And I suspect that, in the wake of Obama's election and the rise of the Tea Party movement, that passion and energy will be in even more evidence in the time leading up to 2012.