It’s finally over; even those in attendance must be exhausted from bashing Obama and Clinton. CPAC ended without accomplishing anything constructive with one exception; Rand Paul is the GOP front runner for the 2016 presidential nomination.
A straw poll at the end of the conference revealed that Paul received 25.7 percent of the votes; finishing second was Scott Walker with 21.4 percent. Senator Paul also finished first in 2014.
None of the results may have significance for 2016. CPAC is the ultimate meeting of extreme right wing Republicans. In its beginnings it was a small meeting; much more like a ‘think tank.’ It devolved into an NRA meeting where none of the speakers reach out to the members of the convention with ideas, it is now an event to condemn liberals. The ‘winner’ seldom receives the GOP nomination. In 2012 Rick Santorum won the straw poll; that was the pinnacle of his year.
The reality is that CPAC lacks actual significance; the voters matter. This is where Mr. Paul may hold the advantage. Scott Walker impressed the crowd with his attempt to align himself with Ronald Reagan. He praised Reagan’s union busting actions and his war on the working class in general. This may bode will with ultra-right wingers, but is unlikely to impress the voting public. Mr. Paul not only repeated his Libertarian views, he added a touch of honesty to the event.
He began with a joke. He carried binders to the podium and said; ‘I was told that I only have ten minutes, but just in case, I brought 13 hours of information;’ (a reference to his Senate filibuster). He stated that ‘liberty’ must be the core of the Republican Party in policies both economic and personal. He rebuffed Marco Rubio, who had spoken just minutes before, claiming that the GOP was in good shape representing America. Mr. Paul was more specific telling the crowd that the Party must change; it has grown old and ‘moss covered.’ (Obviously referring to his nemesis John McCain). Rubio received just four percent of the straw vote.
Mr. Paul stepped away from other speakers by introducing issues not often on the agenda of those seeking the White House. He criticized President Obama for the indefinite detention of the men remaining in Guantanamo Bay. He also mentioned Mr. Obama’s hardcore stance on drug possession and the severity of punishment for such a minor infringement. He stayed focused on younger voters when he said ‘ask those on Facebook if they believe that banks should receive bailout money from their tax dollars.’ He didn’t fail to speak to his audience. He included remarks about balancing the budget, government waste and abuse of power, and the Sequester.
The other true winner rising from the conference was Jeb Bush. Although he only received eight percent of the straw vote, it was somewhat impressive considering the fact that he is not extreme. He is a moderate and has close ties with the establishment in Washington.
It would not be surprising when the debates begin to see Rand Paul and Jeb Bush moving away from other hopefuls. Will Republican voters choose the candidate with a new approach, or will their disgust with our present Congress convince them to move away from those presently governing in Washington, and towards a candidate whose principles are tried and true?
Although there is one-year and nine-months until the election savvy candidates have begun their campaigns. Mr. Paul may be reaching his stride ahead of his challengers.
By James Turnage