CPAC Diary: Rand Paul Wins the Presidential Straw Poll, as 70% of Attendees Say They Oppose Drones

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
March 16 2013 5:49 PM

CPAC Diary: Rand Paul Wins the Presidential Straw Poll, as 70% of Attendees Say They Oppose Drones

Three years before the Iowa caucuses, the CPAC presidential straw poll might have one or few flaws as a predictor of the next GOP nominee. Mitt Romney, who regularly won it, never became president. Ron Paul, who alternated his wins wiith Romney's, never won the nod. But the media is addicted to presidential politics with a narcotic fervor unseen since Heather Graham's scenes in Drugstore Cowboy. And here's the straw poll:

Rand Paul - 25%
Marco Rubio - 23%
Other - 14%
Rick Santorum - 8%
Chris Christie - 7%
Paul Ryan - 6%
Scott Walker - 5%
Ben Carson - 4%
Ted Cruz - 4%
Bobby Jindal -3%
Sarah Palin - 3%

All of these candidates spoke at CPAC, save Christie, who wasn't invited. Of them, only Paul and Santorum ran anything that looked like straw poll campaigns. Santorum's Patriot Voices PAC packed Friday with events and availabilites. Paul didn't make himself as available, but Young Americans for Liberty, his father's organization, distributed 1000 T-shirts and signs with the "STAND WITH RAND" slogan and a silouette of the senator. I'm not convinced he even needed the push, because in no time at all, the youngish, libertarian-ish CPAC attendee pool had adopted Paul's drone stance. From the poll:

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 6.00.48 PM

And they were pretty sold on his foreign policy.

Screen shot 2013-03-16 at 6.16.10 PM

That's a libertarian, Old Right leaning base -- you'd expect the Paul vote to be higher, even. Unless the average CPAC voter wants Paul to keep rewiring the party, and someone with more obvious cross-party appeal to lead it.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. You can reach him at daveweigel@gmail.com, or tweet at him @daveweigel.