The votes are in, and Sen. Rand Paul has defeated Sen. Marco Rubio in the latest CPAC straw poll to determine which Republican won’t be president.
Except for the Iowa straw poll, (Hello, President Bachmann) there may not be a more meaningless political exercise than the CPAC straw poll. Some in the mainstream media will try to read the non-existent tea leaves and determine what this means for positioning within the Republican ranks in 2016, but the reality is that the only time the CPAC straw poll has ever been interesting was when Mitt Romney was so desperate for a win that he rigged the poll last year by buying votes.
The CPAC audience is always full of Paul supporters. It is estimated that 52% of CPAC’s audience was young libertarians, which demonstrates the problem with the CPAC straw poll. It doesn’t reflect who actually votes in Republican primaries. If GOP primary electorate was a majority young Libertarian, Ron Paul would have been a two time Republican presidential nominee. But the people who vote in Republican primaries are actually old and white.
Rand Paul is already more of a mainstream Republican that his father ever was, but the CPAC straw poll is a better indicator of who isn’t going to be president than who is. I suspect that Rand Paul will do equally well in 2014, 2015, and 2016 too, and it will mean absolutely nothing.
Paul finished with 25%, Rubio 23%, Rick Santorum 8%, Chris Christie 7%, Paul Ryan 6%, Scott Walker 5%, Dr. Ben Carson 4%, Ted Cruz 4%, Bobby Jindal 3%, and Sarah Palin 3%.
The two potential candidates that didn’t do well in the straw poll who are the most likely contenders for the 2016 nomination are Chris Christie and Paul Ryan. One can easily imagine Ryan thinking he is next in line for the Republican nomination, but Christie is more of a wait and see.
CPAC is not good at predicting eventual presidents. According to USA Today, “Since 1976, only Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have won the CPAC straw poll and gone on to win the White House.” No one should be surprised if by 2017, CPAC is 2 for 40 in picking winners. The lesson here is that any Republican who wants to be president would be wise to avoid CPAC.
Mr. Easley is the managing editor. He is also a White House Press Pool and a Congressional correspondent for PoliticusUSA. Jason has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. His graduate work focused on public policy, with a specialization in social reform movements.
Awards and Professional Memberships
Member of the Society of Professional Journalists and The American Political Science Association