Why you should be hesitant about drawing sweeping conclusions from CPAC straw polls or anything else that happens there (although it certainly is a fun and informative time if you do go):
Since George W. Bush left office these are the only 5 people to win the CPAC presidential poll: Rudy Giuliani, George Allen, Mitt Romney, and someone whose last name is Paul.
Obviously these names all have something in common. They represent the big government, pro-killing/pro-homosexuality corporatist wing of the party (Giuliani, Allen, and Romney), or the libertarian wing (Paul). While those are certainly factions within the party, that’s exactly what they are — factions.
Results speak for themselves. Giuliani was an awful presidential candidate. Romney had to pretend to be conservative and run from his liberal record to gain traction. Allen got creamed in his last two senate races. Ron Paul’s only popular vote win in a presidential primary/caucus came in the U.S. Virgin Islands, I believe. The other states he’s won came after the fact by working the delegate process. Rand Paul has won the last three CPAC straw polls now, but he doesn’t lead in polling in any of the three key early states.
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Throw in the declining attendance at CPAC (I don’t know this year’s numbers yet), as well as the competition from so many other events now, and there’s a shift at CPAC. If you go, you see it.
Almost all of the everyday folks who go are libertarians, and usually young ones without families. Therefore, they can afford the time and expense (a lot of times they drive there) someone 35-50 years-old like me with a young family cannot. There are very few everyday folks who are full-spectrum, conventional conservatives. Those that are typically work for organizations or media (like me). The rest of the people there are vying to be the next batch of GOP consultants, flaks, and other political lifers to roll off the assembly line.
For example, a friend of mine and I went to a Washington Times mixer there last year. A very attractive young lady comes up to us with a drink and strikes up a conversation. I thought it was a little awkward, but I haven’t been single in 20 years so I’m out of the game. And each of us had our wedding rings clearly displayed. Once it was obvious we weren’t going to help her aspirations in some way because we were from Iowa, she immediately bolted. We laughed about it later because we thought this stuff only happened in the movies. But there’s a reason a liberal blog that covers the CPAC social scene recently said “it’s easier to get laid at CPAC than at spring break.”
Bottom line: the bulk of the GOP grassroots, particularly evangelicals and middle class families, are simply not the bulk of the audience at CPAC. For better or for worse. Either way, them’s the facts.
So why do I go? Because it’s a tremendous networking opportunity if you work in conservative media. There is lots of good stuff that happens there, too, which is why I would recommend it if you’ve never been.
The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Barb Wire.