It’s another CPAC year, and it appears that not much is new. Mitt Romney will still say anything to convince the GOP and conservative voters that his past doesn’t exist, and the CPAC attendees still bounce back and forth between the same two names they’ve done since 2007… Mitt or Ron Paul. After CPAC 2010-2011 Straw Polls, handing the victory to Ron Paul, Romney regained his crown and chalked up yet another CPAC win with 38% of the 3,408 attendees. Santorum came in second with 31%, Gingrich third at 15%, and Ron Paul trailing last with 12%.
The participation in the straw poll – always traditionally low – seems to echo that same pattern considering the estimated attendance of 10,000 touted. Al Cardenas, chair of the American Conservative Union which sponsors CPAC, had hoped a change of rules, allowing attendees to vote electronically with their phones and iPads, instead of just through paper ballots, would boost the voting participation.
“No one’s stacking the deck this year,” Cardenas said. “It’s a wide-open process. I don’t think any of [the candidates] want to be caught with a perception that they’re trying to stack the deck and then lose the straw ballot. … The outcome will be far less predictable.”
All that according to Cardenas adds up to results that, when they’re announced Saturday, will be a real barometer of which presidential candidate the thousands of attendees at CPAC like the most.
“This is the first time that you’re going to have the ultimate focus group of 10,000 people (or whatever it turns out to be) listening to four candidates over the same period of time, voting on who they like the best,” Cardenas told me at his morning press conference. “They’re going to be swayed by the passion of the orator. Whether they end up voting for the person they came in supporting or not, I think that’s one of the most interesting stories for you fellows to follow.”
Personally, I would think such electronic polls leave you even more open to a fraudulent count, as any well versed Ron Paul supporter can attest. In fact, as the masters of swamping any electronic poll, the CPAC officials are lucky that most the Ron Paul voters were MIA, along with their candidate. Indeed, the electronic voting seemed to be one of the hopes CPAC had to keep the Ron Paul supporters from gaming the system, and hope for at least 2/3rds of those attending to participate.
Despite the rapidly increasing of attendance at CPAC since 2000, and assuming the “focus group of 10,000 people” is close to the 2012 attendance, a participation rate of 34% via new media is a disappointing voting statistic in itself. And if you further parse the numbers, Romney’s win pencils out to a big 1,295 attendees out of 10,000 voting for him.
This year, the American Conservative Union and CPAC are moving from paper ballots to electronic voting that will be accessible from a computer or a handheld device, said Al Cardenas, the conservative union’s current president. He told The Huffington Post that he hopes this will increase the number of attendees who participate in the straw poll.
“Obviously, in the past, it’s been somewhat compromised because only a third of the people who attend voted,” Cardenas said in an interview. “It used to be a fairly cumbersome process because you had to do it manually. Now, for the first time this year we’re instituting an electronic vote.
“So people can vote through Saturday afternoon, and before, that wasn’t the case,” he said. “And we’re hoping that instead of having a third of those in attendance vote, we’ll have two-thirds or more vote.”
If you’re Romney, should you be celebrating that only 1.2% of all CPAC attendees wanted to vote for him, and most of them there didn’t want to vote for anyone? Instead, the lack of participation makes a serious statement on the lackluster enthusiasm by what is supposed to be a charged up base of conservatives, eager to beat Obama with literally any one with an “R” behind their names or, as others have stated, any handy inanimate object.
If this all that would postpone their next text or tweet in order to muster up the Herculean effort of an electronic vote, the conservative base and GOP Party are in big trouble. Because no matter how you spin it, 66% approximate are still unhappy with the political buffet laid before them…. even after what has been promoted as a wildly positive event.
Probably about as accurate or scientific as the Straw Poll itself is S.E. Cupps’ own personal straw poll Friday evening, where it seems the true winner is which ever direction the wind is blowing that day, the “Frankenstein” candidate… a piece of this guy, and another piece of that one…. and not to be ignored, the amount of people who stated that their convictions were impossible to ignore that were running along side those that would vote for an empty can of Spam over Obama.
“Decidedly undecided” says it all. If you get an answer today, be sure to ask again next week to see if it’s the same answer.
But if the history of the CPAC Straw Poll winners bears out, Romney’s fourth win will unlikely translate to anything more rewarding than his previous wins. Since it’s inception in 1976, only Reagan and Bush have gone on to get the nod at the GOP Convention, let alone get to the WH. Other winners, Jack Kemp, Phil Gramm, Steve Forbes, Gary Bauer, Rudy Giuliana, George Allen, Mittens and Ron Paul, have failed to make the grade.
In fact, the failure rate of CPAC winners is a dubious legacy enshrined by the neo-liberal rag, The New Republic, in a slideshow.
So congrats to Mittens for chalking up his fourth win. But since the third time wasn’t the charm, I’m not thinking the fourth will do much, except to give him empty bragging rights. Maybe next year he should compete on Dancing with the Stars. At least he’ll could nab a mirror ball trophy for his efforts.