Ron Paul Retreats from CPAC
by Jo Freeman
Ron Paul was the only one of the four current candidates for the Republican nomination to decline an invitation to speak at the 2012 Conservative Political Action Conference. He said he preferred to spend his time campaigning in Maine, whose caucuses were held on Saturday, February 11, the last day of this year’s CPAC. His son, Sen. Rand Paul (R KY), was a last minute addition to the program as a surrogate speaker for his father.
Paul came in second in Maine with 36 percent, his best showing so far. Although Romney took the time to speak at CPAC on Friday, Maine was his second state win with 39 percent. His absence made it possible for Romney once again to win CPAC’s straw poll with 31 percent of 3,408 votes cast. Romney was the winner of CPAC’s straw poll in 2007, 2008 and 2009.
In 2010 and 2011, Campaign for Liberty, a group founded by Paul and run by family members, packed CPAC with young, enthusiastic, Paul supporters in order to win CPAC’s straw poll. He got 30 percent of the votes in 2011 and 31 percent in 2010.
At both of those conferences, CfL paid for several exhibit booths in order to populate "Liberty Row" with CfL affiliates and qualify hundreds of Paul supporters for discounted registration fees. Anyone with a CPAC badge (even media) could vote in the straw poll.
Without his hordes of dedicated supporters, only 12 percent of those voting in the 2012 straw poll said Ron Paul was their "first choice to be the Republican Presidential nominee." Although this was the same proportion that favored him in 2008, when he first appeared on the list, he came in last among the current candidates. In 2008 he also came in last out of four.
In 2009, when the field of possibles was much larger, 13 percent of those voting put Paul first, making him third out of ten.
In addition to the straw poll, Paul supporters had an impact on the last two CPACs that was completely missing from this one. There were no panels or speakers on libertarian topics. Students for Liberty was the only libertarian group that paid for a booth in the exhibit hall. It is "friendly" to CfL, but not a part of it.
Also among the missing was GOProud, a gay conservative group which is not libertarian. Its presence at the last two CPACs was a source of controversy, causing some traditional conservative groups to boycott the conference.
GOProud received a letter last July specifically disinviting it from the 2012 CPAC. So did the John Birch Society, whose presence at previous CPACs was not controversial. Some of the conservative groups that did not pay for booths last year, did so this year.
2012 CPAC straw poll results:
Mitt Romney 38%
Rick Santorum 31%
Newt Gingrich 15%
Ron Paul 12%
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