Posted by Brad @ 9:39 pm on February 20th 2010

Feel the Ronslaught; CPAC Victory Reax

First, The Corner, because I was most interested in seeing the partisan Republican take.

Aside from two VERY noticeable dissenters (John Derbyshire and David Freddoso), National Review has not, shall we say, been on board the Ronslaught. They invested themselves even more than most partisan organizations into the 2002-2006 neoconservative narrative, so Paul was seen as, at best, a lunatic, and at worst, a traitor not in the party sense, but in the American one.

So it’s nice to see the top post at The Corner about Ron’s victory in the CPAC straw poll giving the good doctor a tip of the hat and a healthy dose of respect (they’re also perhaps less inclined to dismiss CPAC straw polls, as they trumpeted Romney’s heavily).

I’ll quote it in full. From Robert Costa:

There may have been some boos, but Paul was by far one of the more popular speakers at CPAC this year. “End the Fed!” was one of most-heard chants and his “Campaign for Liberty” group was everywhere. Heck, a lot of the time, it seemed like they, not the American Conservative Union, was CPAC’s host. Even Ann Coulter, who drew a huge crowd herself, felt compelled to give a shout out to Paul-mania, saying she agreed with everything he stands for outside of foreign policy — a statement met with cheers.

Paul supporters were the most visible and vocal throughout CPAC — waving posters, signs, and passing out pamphlets. Unlike the 2012 wannabes, Paul doesn’t play coy: He has a manifesto and wants to broadcast it. Period. No worries about the media spin or whether the speech gets headlines (see Pawlenty, Tiger doctrine). And, instead of the usual anti-Obama talk, Paul framed a hefty chunk of his CPAC address upon a critique of Woodrow Wilson. And the crowd dug it.

Some older CPAC attendees don’t seem to care much for the Texas congressman, sure, but many young activists seem to regard him as a hero of sorts. When he talks about the debt, like he did on Friday, calling it a “monster” that will “eat up” our future, it was with a passion that you can’t fake in politics. He also didn’t mind challenging many of the room’s security hawks on foreign policy. “There is nothing wrong with being a conservative and having a conservative belief in foreign policy where we have a strong national defense and don’t go to war so carelessly,” Paul said. That line was met with a lot of silence, some nods, but, based on my conservations with activists afterward, strong respect from many for not simply pandering.

As Paul strolled through the lobby on Friday, slightly hunched and rail thin, cell phones galore lit up the Marriott Wardman Park. Students, a huge CPAC contingent, flocked. That should have been a sign to anyone looking to predict the straw poll. While Paul mingled with his acolytes, the big guns — Pawlenty, Romney — were often shrouded by aides or mingling backstage. Believe me: CPAC folks noticed. And now, thanks to the straw poll, for a moment, Paul’s opening line from his address is true: His “revolution is alive and well,” at least this weekend.

More below the jump.

A most excellent take from Dailykos (I am sure they will start in on how this is a sign that the Tea Party movement is racist soon enough):

You may recall that in early 2008, Fox made the Unfair & Unbalanced decision to ban Ron Paul from a GOP presidential debate. But now, just two years later, their network is leading media mouthpiece for the tea party movement spawned by Paul.

Another example of how times change: Glenn Beck is concluding keynoter for CPAC. Though Beck today is the leading teabagger on the teabagger’s leading network, in 2007 he expressed concern that some Ron Paul supporters were fomenting domestic terrorism. And now he’s keynoting a conference that just tapped Paul as their top pick for 2012.

It’s enough to raise the question: are Fox and the GOP taking over the tea party movement? Or is the teabagging on them?

Not much analysis from Chris Good at Ambinder’s joint, but:

Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), in a surprise victory, took first in the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) straw poll.

Paul didn’t just win, he crushed the field of Republican White House contenders.

Ah, here’s Ambinder:

Speaking of the straw poll, Ron Paul won it. Seriously. Ron Paul crushed–absolutely crushed–all the other GOP big shots on the list except for Mitt Romney, who took a close second. Romney has a history of doing GOTV on big straw polls, but apparently he didn’t get an operation in gear to best Paul.

Paul’s victory said something about the event, and the type of people who attended it. CPAC was an exposition of ideology and conservative glee, not necessarily political prowess. Ron Paul will probably not be president in 2012; he seems to have no relationship with the tea partiers; he has ceded his conservative stardom to the likes of Sarah Palin.

Lew Rockwell, gracious as always:

The Republican political establishment was rocked today when Ron Paul — advocate of the un-Republican policies of free markets, sound money, non-intervention. and civil liberties — won the CPAC straw poll, beating Romney (who had typically spent a bunch to win it), Sarah Palin, and the Eight Dwarfs. The DC corruptionists are already playing down the results, of course, but they are whistling past the neocon graveyard, and how sweet it is.

DailyBeast plays it mostly straight so far:

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) ran away with the presidential straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference Saturday, with 31 percent of the vote. Paul’s libertarian conservative message has made him a hero to small- government Republicans for years, but this is the first CPAC straw poll he has ever won.

Paul’s victory came as a surprise to supporters of Mitt Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, who has won the straw poll at this event for the last four years. Romney was second this year, with 22 percent.

Another surprise came with Sarah Palin’s third-place finish, with 7 percent of the vote. Palin is a favorite of the conservative base, but was one of the few Republicans included in the straw poll ballot who did not attend or speak to the conference.

CPAC’s straw poll is an unscientific, voluntary poll, but it has served as a barometer of support for possible Republican presidential candidates among their all-important conservative base.

Tom Schaller at FiveThirtyEight thinks this should be a wakeup call to MSM reporters on the Tea Party beat:

But the most revealing result from CPAC 2010, one that didn’t surprise me but ought to wake up national political reporters, is this one: Ron Paul won this year’s CPAC straw poll with 31 percent. Next best was Mitt Romney with 22 percent. Amazingly, Paul’s support was more than that for Sarah Palin (7 percent), Tim Pawlenty (6), Mike Pence (5), Newt Gingrich (4), Mike Huckabee (4), Mitch Daniels (2), and Rick Santorum (2) combined. Yes, that’s right–combined. By compare, just a year ago, Paul tied with Palin for third at 13 percent, with Romney winning and Bobby Jindal (who dat?) second at 14 percent.

Five months ago in this space, I speculated that this new conservative movement is fueled to a significant degree by a lot of ginned up former Ron Paul supporters. I mentioned and quoted at length from Dana Goldstein’s fanstastic reporting that connected the Tea Party movement to residual Ron Paulites. When is the national media going to finally make these connections?

Instead, the kooky, historically revisionist, apocalyptic ideas of Glenn Beck and Ron Paul are treated with equivalency to those of the majority Democratic Party in Washington and–here’s the key point–these movement activists and their ideas are often discussed without much mention of their connections to Beck or Paul. Beck earns his share of attention, granted. But there is almost no recognition whatsoever of the true origins of this conservative backlash. The movement is instead covered as if it is the somehow the byproduct and wind in the sails of national Republicans like Michael Steele, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, when in fact it is operating wholly independently of any or all of them.

Talking Points Memo (featuring a huge picture of Dr. Paul on the front page):

By any reasonable standard, winning the CPAC straw poll means only slightly less than nothing. Except for that Romney has spent a whole lotta time trying to win it.

RealClearPolitics is almost as passive-aggressive as Politico:

Texas Rep. Ron Paul (R) has won the 2012 presidential primary straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference this weekend, a somewhat surprising result that reflects a concerted effort among his supporters to influence the vote.

The result was a surprise to the crowd gathered here Saturday night. When Paul was announced as the winner, many booed. Romney’s second-place showing drew a loud cheer.

The Campaign For Liberty, an offshoot of Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, has been a visible presence all weekend at the conference. Before the results were announced, a CPAC staffer emphasized that there was no official promotion of the vote (though some speakers mentioned it). And fewer than 25 percent of those who attended the event actually voted. Last year, about 1,700 cast ballots.

Yes, and this year it was 2,395, the highest ever. I wonder if we’d have heard these reactions had Sarah Palin won? My guess is we’d be hearing a lot of “look out for Sarah Palin! She’s the real deal!” I also love the idea that somehow a straw poll, is less valid because it is too representative of the people in the room. RCP adds:

A final note: the sense that Paul supporters flooded the vote will lead other Republican presidential water-testers to easily discount the results. A straw poll that will be conducted at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference this April in New Orleans will be taken much more seriously among those involved with and eagerly watching the presidential sweepstakes.

Yes, pay no attention to our annual trumpeting of CPAC. The Southern Republican Leadership Conference is the bellweather!

Allahpundit at HotAir, which was recently acquired by Yu Wan Mei Fish By-Products Incorporated, is similarly gracious:

Romney won the straw poll the last three years but the Paulnuts had their act together this time. For one evening, the three-percent rEVOLution is a 31 percent rEVOLution.

Romney came second with 22 percent and Palin finished third with seven percent. Yet another reminder that the wisdom of “insiders” ain’t always that wise.

John Hinderaker at Powerline is of similar mind:

Ron Paul has won the CPAC straw Presidential vote with 31 percent of the total. This is dismaying, to the extent one takes it seriously. Ron Paul is the crazy uncle in the Republican Party’s attic. He is not a principled libertarian like, say, Steve Forbes. Rather, as I noted in this post, where I likened him to Pee-Wee Herman, Paul has a rather sinister history as a hater and conspiracy theorist. He has no business being taken seriously as a Presidential contender–and that’s before we even start talking about his inadequate vision of national security or his disgraceful performance in the 2008 Presidential debates.

Hinderaker also had this to say:

It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can’t get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.


It’s time to start taking seriously the proposition that the American economy under the Bush administration is the best in the nation’s history.

And Andrew Sullivan:

At least Paul has some core integrity; at least he believes in small government and has long been honest about what he wants to cut; at least he fully understands that continuing an empire with this level of debt is unsustainable and unconservative.

He will continue to be smeared by the more extreme neoconservatives precisely because they see his attempt to unwind an unsustainable neo-empire as an end to open-ended, unconditional support for an increasingly far right and fundamentalist Israel and an end to the PNAC global control ideology that is slowly corrupting this country and bankrupting its treasury. Why do we have thousands of troops in Germany and Japan for Pete’s sake? If we can afford that but we cannot afford some basic health insurance for working poor Americans, something has gone seriously wrong.

He is not a cynical mannequin like Romney, nor a clinically disturbed fraud like Palin; nor an alleged moderate like Pawlenty now declaring that in government, “God is in charge!” He is real. He is sincere.

Which is why the pundits keep dismissing him. I don’t.


  1. Ron Paul has a William Jennings Bryan tendency–and I don’t mean the gold standard. He has never gotten over his habit of speaking to the people in front of him, as opposed to speaking to an imaginary national audience. Where is policies are concerned, he lives in the future; but as a campaigner and speaker, he lives entirely in the moment.

    The upside of that tendency is that it produces moments like these.

    Comment by Rojas — 2/20/2010 @ 9:48 pm

  2. I’m going to go ahead and just edit this post into a reax thing, since I’m surfing around reactions anyway.

    My original appendage to the Corner quote:

    I really do think that the only person from the 2008 field that people will still cite as an inspiration 20 years from now is Ron Paul. My hunch is seeing him as a low-key Republican folk hero will be more or less totally mainstream in the GOP in a few cycles. It’s already started. And I don’t think he’ll ever get his due in his lifetime. And, of course, he’ll never be President. but that was never the point.

    Frankly, this was.

    So forgive me if tonight I feel a little gratified and triumphant. It’s just a stupid straw poll, but the influence of Ron Paul is real, and it gives me hope for his ideas and the future for genuine small government conservatism or progressive Republicanism.

    Now all we need is for Ron to give an early endorsement to Gary Johnson in 2012 and I might be able to start showing my face as a Republican again.

    The rest I’ll edit into the main post here.

    Comment by Brad — 2/20/2010 @ 10:02 pm

  3. And on the Powerline note, I’ll stop updating for tonight. Probably more to add in the morning.

    Comment by Brad — 2/20/2010 @ 10:44 pm

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