We still have two more possible 2012 contenders to go here at CPAC, but the real news on the dais today won’t come from the pen of a speechwriter. After two days of non-stop conservative/Libertarian/Republican/Tea Party action (thus is the makeup of the crowd at CPAC), we’ll finally get to hear who won the straw poll.
What that means exactly is anyone’s guess. Once an anticipated barometer of a candidate’s cred with the conservative wing of the GOP (see: Romney, Mitt circa 2008), most people here think today’s straw poll will be a measure of how many people Team Paul brought along.
As Dave Weigel reported, fans of Ron and Rand Paul spent $100,000 bringing throngs of supporters to CPAC. As we saw on Thursday, they’ve had an impact on the tone of the place.Last year, Paul pulled off an upset win in the straw poll, which did three things: boosted Paul’s stature, led to stories about the tea party taking over at CPAC, and greatly diminished the relevance of the straw poll.
It should be noted that the poll was never really all that relevant to begin with. When Romney won it in 2008, it was hailed as evidence that he had shaken off the taint of Massachusetts and become conserva-friendly. He of course lost the nomination to someone who was extremely un-conservative friendly at the time, John McCain.
Oh, and for all the talk of the poll being a measure of what attendees think of their candidates: just 2,395 people voted in the poll last year, out of the 10,000+ who attended.
Still, whomever wins today will get a headline. And the people who lose will talk about how pointless the poll is.
And then we’ll all go home, another CPAC in the memory banks.