Who Won CPAC?

Weigel
Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Feb. 14 2011 9:14 AM

Who Won CPAC?

That's the question I keep getting asked in the wake of the three-day conference. It wasn't a question asked often during the event, for the simple reason that everyone expected Ron Paul to take the straw poll. But there were candidates who threaded the needle, and tried to avoid being embarrassed by the straw poll while building presidential buzz for 2012. Winners and losers lists are too sophisticated: Let's rank them.

1) Ron Paul

So that's out of the way. I've heard arguments that the backlash against his rowdy supporters would hurt him, but that's what we were hearing in 2007.

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

Advertisement

2) Gary Johnson

A third-place showing in the straw poll gave Johnson his first real media hook that wasn't some combination of "he wants to legalize drugs" and "he's the new Ron Paul!" Oh, sure, half of Johnson's coverage now will still be "how is he different than Ron Paul?" But that's an improvement. He met tons of reporters, commanded a small scrum after the vote, and is a slightly lighter shade of dark horse now.

3) Mitch Daniels

Social conservatives whiffed by condemning Daniels' appearance at CPAC. I'm of the belief that his "social truce" comments and positioning won't hurt him if he runs for president -- if asked about social issues, he has the right answers and the right record for the hardliners. His speech was smart and memorable, and, yes, it dominated the Drudge Report for twelve hours. And he formulated the "truce" issue perfectly. Of course, he'd done that in the first place only to see it chewed up by the news cycle.

4) Haley Barbour

For the first time, he gave a speech with national ambitions to a national audience, and he nailed it. (Both Daniels and Barbour spoke after the straw poll closed, allowing reporters to discount their showings.)

5) John Bolton

There is a place in every presidential race for the say-anything candidate. Bolton proved himself able to the task of becoming a new Alan Keyes, especially because so many 2012 hopefuls balked at mentioning Egypt -- an evolving situation that doesn't really fit into a partisan attack space.

6) Donald Trump

He's now somebody the media might take semi-seriously; reporters are now aware that he's working with Roger Stone and much-loved by GOProud. Now to wait until the Celebrity Apprentice season ends.

7) Mitt Romney

He performed fine in the straw poll, again, but didn't take the opportunity for a confrontation on health care. (If he watched what happened to Orrin Hatch, this was wise.)

8) Newt Gingrich

Soon to be taken much more seriously.

9) Herman Cain

His speech was light on substance and heavy on applause lines, as all of his speeches are, and he missed a chance to do... something... to win media attention as the GOP's possible debate-winning breakout star. Also, by the end of the conference, several reporters had embarrassing stories of talking to attendees who couldn't tell Cain apart from other black Republican stars.

10) Tim Pawlenty

The week Pawlenty launched his book was the week of the Tucson shootings. The day of his CPAC speech was the day Hosni Mubarak resigned. Quick: What did he say about either topic?

11) Rick Santorum

He gave a speech, I'm told.

12) John Thune

I could say the same, but Thune, unlike Santorum, is the focus of fevered speculation about his chances. The DNC even issued an instant response to his speech. They were among the only people who seemed noticing.

David Weigel is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

TODAY IN SLATE

The World

The Budget Disaster that Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

Are the Attacks in Canada a Sign of ISIS on the Rise in the West?

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

Is It Offensive When Kids Use Bad Words for Good Causes?

Fascinating Maps Based on Reddit, Craigslist, and OkCupid Data

Culturebox

The Real Secret of Serial

What reporter Sarah Koenig actually believes.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

In Praise of 13th Grade: Why a Fifth Year of High School Is a Great Idea

Can Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu Pull Off One More Louisiana Miracle?

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 23 2014 1:51 PM Is This the ISIS Backlash We've Been Waiting For?
  Business
Business Insider
Oct. 23 2014 2:36 PM Take a Rare Peek Inside the Massive Data Centers That Power Google
  Life
Atlas Obscura
Oct. 23 2014 1:34 PM Leave Me Be Beneath a Tree: Trunyan Cemetery in Bali
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 11:33 AM Watch Little Princesses Curse for the Feminist Cause
  Slate Plus
Working
Oct. 23 2014 11:28 AM Slate’s Working Podcast: Episode 2 Transcript Read what David Plotz asked Dr. Meri Kolbrener about her workday.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 3:23 PM This Is What Bette Midler Covering TLC’s “Waterfalls” Sounds Like
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 23 2014 11:45 AM The United States of Reddit  How social media is redrawing our borders. 
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.