The shindig known as the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) wound up yesterday. This is the annual occasion when the craziest of political crazies get together and Republican politicians fall over themselves to outdo each other in pandering to them. The rule-of-thumb for any aspiring Republican is to say the most extreme things using the most incendiary rhetoric while clinging tenuously to some semblance of reality and not veering off into total lunacy.
Needless to say, this makes for good political theater and so the meeting gets far more coverage in the media than it deserves because not only are the speeches over the top, but reporters can interview any attendee at random and be guaranteed some hare-brained quote.
The meeting also features its famous straw poll where prospective candidates for president are ranked by the attendees. This is a totally useless exercise with no predictive power, since the attendees are self-selected and any politician with a determined set of followers can rig the outcome, something that Ron Paul and now his son Rand have taken advantage of to improve their name recognition, together winning in 2010, 2011, and 2013. All this polls does is confer short-lived bragging rights to those who finish at or near the top.
This year’s results had Rand Paul repeating his win of last year, increasing his vote from 23% to 31%, well ahead of Ted Cruz (11%), Ben Carson (9%), and Chris Christie (8%).
What was interesting was that hopefuls like Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio got only 3% and 6% respectively, both lower than previous years.
What surprised me was that in going down the list of past winners, Mitt Romney won in 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2012. Given that conservatives have never had much love for someone they consider to not be a true believer, I can only assume that he simply out-organized his competitors in those years and stacked the attendees with his supporters.