Texas Congressman and 2008 Repub presidential candidate Ron Paul, as expected, won the CPAC Straw Poll with 30 percent of the vote, followed by former Mass. Guv Mitt Romney running a strong second with 23 percent. No one else, including the two Minnesotans on the ballot (Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann, who each received the support of four percent of the straw voters) and including some of the pundit-considered frontrunners for the 2012 presidential nomination ( Sarah Palin, three percent, New Gingrich, five percent, Mike Huckabee, two percent) scored above six percent, so there was a massive virtual tie for third through 15th place.)
The final numbers, at least for the only two who received significant support, were a near carbon copy of last year’s straw poll, in which Paul beat Romney by 31-22 percent.
The CPAC Straw Poll gets a lot of hype as an indicator of the strength of various Repubs exploring presidential candidacies, although it has no track record as a reliable harbinger. True, George W. Bush won CPAC in 2000. In 2008, Romney narrowly bested John McCain at CPAC, although McCain beat Romney for the nomination. (That one was a pretty big mess because Romney withdrew from the race for the GOP nomination after the straw polling had begun but before it closed, so presumably Romney would have won by more if he had not made his big announcement in the middle. Romney actually won the straw poll in 2007, 2008 and 2009. U.S. News published the results of the last five straw polls here.) But Ron Paul won in 2010 and his success for 2011 was widely expected and discounted in advance (small sample of righty activists with a youth bias).
Some of the candidates try harder to win than others, and Paul made an all-out push, including an email to potential supporters asking those whom he calls the “liberty movement” to help him “evaluate my political options” (meaning whether to enter the presidential field.
Some of Pawlenty’s supporters, by the way, complained that the timing of the voting was unfair to TPaw, since the window for voting closed before TPaw’s big speech to the CPAC meeting. (Ron Paul spoke later than that but didn’t complain about the timing.)
The official ballot listed 15 names (none of them declared candidates, since none have declared) with additional options to write someone in or vote “undecided.” The list included several (Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, N.J. Guv Chris Christie) who didn’t address nor even attend the event. Christie, in addition, has made truly Shermanesque statements that he is not a candidate for president in 2012, but he nonetheless outpolled 10 Republicans who are officially considering running.
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson tied Christie for third place with six percent of the votes.
The fact that Palin (who had been invited to give the keynote address) and Huckabee blew off the convention will add fuel to the general hunch that neither of them is very serious about a 2012 run.
Those, like the two Minnesotans, who did show up but scored only four percent, may pooh-pooh the results.