A realistic assessment of Ron Paul's CPAC straw poll victory

There has been much discussion and debate on the overall meaning of Texas Congressman Ron Paul’s success at the CPAC straw poll this year. CPAC, as you know, is the “Conservative Political Action Conference,” yet there are some who seek to rebrand CPAC into a more libertarian event. Undoubtedly, this is not necessarily the type of rebranding that folks like David Keene and the Board of Directors of the American Conservative Union would like to see.

Several prominent figures within the conservative movement have expressed distaste for the combination of events that shed CPAC this year in a more libertarian light: Paul’s straw poll success, Students for Liberty founder Alexander McCobin’s praise for GOProud, as well as other minor events.

Traditional conservatism places emphasis on Judeo-Christian morality, a hawkish and militarized national defense, and a certain level of fiscal restraint. The more libertarian crowd de-emphasizes social issues and has little interest in an itchy trigger finger.

Since so many were willing to brand my political persuasion today, I feel the need to clarify it here: I think libertarian foreign policy is naive. To suggest that the United States operates in a vacuum where foreign actors either play no role or are only provoked by American actions is silly. Of the two tenets left, I tend to focus heavily on fiscal issues and allow others to champion Judeo-Christian tendancies. That being said, I am pro-life and tend to be indifferent on other social issues. And yes, I supported Ron Paul in the 2008 primary, but I am by no means what one could consider a Paultard, or whatever term you might use.

So, let’s take a look at these numbers:

  • Of the roughly 10,000 CPAC attendees, just under 2,400 of them voted in the straw poll. For those of us who aren’t all that proficient mathematically, that’s about a quarter of all registered attendees.
  • Of the ~2,400 votes cast, 48% of them were cast by students, which – as we know – were generally pretty supportive of Ron Paul during the Presidential Primary. And for those of us who aren’t all that proficient mathematically, that’s about 1,200 votes or so… roughly.
  • Which brings us to that Presidential total: 31% of CPAC attendees who voted in the straw poll did so for Ron Paul. So, for those of us who aren’t all that proficient mathematically, that’s about 740 total votes cast in his favor.
  • Lastly, 740 or so votes cast out of a total 10,000 or so attendees amounts to just about 7.4% of the total percentage of attendees.

No matter how much of a Ron Paul fan I am (the rational, non-crazy type), I cannot realistically see a reason to trumpet these results as launching some sort of Presidential bid for 2012.

I do know that Young Americans for Liberty and Campaign for Liberty worked tirelessly to register many Paul supporters for CPAC, so the results are a testament to their organizational skills, but even in the best climate – where Paul received a full 7ish percent of the vote of the total number of attendees – it’s rather insignificant.

I eagerly awaited the primary results in key states early on, and when Paul garnered only 5% of the vote, I knew that little would come from his primary campaign. While Paul’s overall message of limited government is a good one, he is likely not the best messenger for the cause.

I would like to see more Members of Congress like Ron Paul: someone who will question the status quo and raise awareness for important issues like sound money, limited government, etc. What I do not like from the base of Paul supporters is the same type of hero worship that so engulfed Obama supporters. At the end of the day, Ron Paul is just a man. There are others like him. Sure, not many share his views on 100% of the issues, but there are ideologically sound Members and candidates which the Ron Paul faction can support.

It’s their unwillingness to examine anyone who is not 100% like Ron Paul that irks me.

Matthew Hurtt graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in May 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter, too.