CPAC 2011: The Straw Poll Aftermath

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 12 2011 6:11 PM

CPAC 2011: The Straw Poll Aftermath

The very moment that Ron Paul won the straw poll, I was handed a press release from Young Americans for Freedom: "NATION'S OLDEST CONSERVATIVE/LIBERTARIAN ACTIVIST GROUP EXPELS RON PAUL FROM ADVISORY BOARD." YAF's senior national director Aaron Marks was quoted saying Paul was "clearly off his meds," and that YAF was "more aligned with Obama" than Paul on national security.

I walked outside to celebrating members of Paul's Young Americans for Liberty. They interrupted hugs and high-fives to have a laugh at this.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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"Why be this inflammatory?" laughed Jeff Frazee, executive director of YAL. "It's a publicity stunt, but it's nice to see them say they agree with Obama."

A few steps away, there was a second and less dramatic aftereffect: A scrum around Gary Johnson, who'd come in third overall and first in the "second choice" category. I asked Johnson if the result, which put him ahead of Sarah Palin and Tim Pawlenty etc., indicated that the media was covering the wrong candidates.

He jokingly grabbed the media badge hanging around Daily reporter Jon Ward's neck. It listed all of the weekend's speakers.

"There are 29 elected politicians whose names appeared on that list," he said. "I wasn't on there." He smiled good-naturedly.

Back in the media room, the first three questions to new ACU Chairman Al Cardenas, outgoing ACU Chairman David Keene, and straw pollster Tony Fabrizio, were about the Paul vote. Fabrizio brushed off a question about why, say, affiliation with Campaign for Liberty was not included as a question on the straw poll, since C4L brought around 1100 to the event, and 3742 people voted in the poll.

"Why would we?" he said. "Campaigns are allowed to be here."

I asked Cardenas about comments he'd made over the weekend about the definition of inclusion -- something that the ACU would look at again because GOProud Chairman Chris Barron. Did that apply to the Campaign for Liberty, too?

"No," said Cardenas.

So I asked what it meant that most of the candidates that the media covers -- Huckabee, Palin -- didn't show? Fabrizio, again, pointed out how unscientific the poll was. After all, Rudy Giuliani had won it in 2007, and John McCain came in fifth.

"And where was John McCain one year later?" asked Fabrizio.

"Losing the presidency," said Keene.

But!

"If they can motivate people to the polls the way they motivate people to straw polls," Fabrizio said, "they can win primaries."

"I'd like all of 'em to bring busloads of people," said Keene.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.