CPAC’s 39th annual conference concluded with a bang as keynote speaker Sarah Palin, fired up the forces with a speech that tore apart the Obama Administration with accurate characterizations of his actions, policies, and thinking, in a series of sharp and memorable one liners. Her speech, which you can see here, did not only focus on the president though. Palin offered some strong words of advice to Republicans and even sent a few warning shots over the bow of the Republican establishment as she reminded them why they were elected in 201o and indicated that in the future, we expect some new conservative faces being appointed to leadership position, not kept open the back benches.
But Palin also reminded the audience that beating the President is the most important first step that Americans must take in their attempt to take government back from the political class. However, she did make the point that whoever we replace with him, must be a true conservative, one whose every instincts stem from the conservative ideology and our belief in limited government.
After Palin brought down the house, the climax of the event, the announcement of he CPAC Straw Poll results was made. It was done in a presentation that broke down conservative opinions on a wide range of issues and dissected the demographics behind the opinions. This year CPAC did something different. They took both a national online poll of self described conservatives and their traditional straw poll of registered guest at the CPAC conference.
The national survey gave Mitt Romney the win in what was essentially a close race that stood at;
- Mitt Romney – 27%
- Rick Santorum – 25%
- Newt Gingrich – 20%
- Ron Paul – 8%
- Others/Undecided – 20%
But the actual CPAC Straw Poll which gauged the opinion of the over three thousand registered CPAC voters in attendance at this year’s conference, painted a similar picture but in much bolder colors. The candidates finished in the same order but by much different margins
- Mitt Romney – 38%
- Rick Santorum – 31%
- Newt Gingrich – 15%
- Ron Paul – 12%
- Others/Undecided – 4%
It’s important to note the level of intensity that was demonstrated in these two polls. The difference between the national poll and the straw poll is that the straw poll reflects the opinion of the activists within the conservative base. They are the opinions of the people who work hard at shaping opinions and who are part of the get out the vote efforts that can put a candidate over the top in an election. As for the national poll, while it still reflects conservative opinions, it it more representative of the less active conservative base, those who would not necessarily drop everything and rearrange their lives to go to Washington, D.C. to be inspired by names like Jay Sekulow, Daniel Hannan, and other names that many Americans are less familiar with. In these polls it would seem that less dedicated or to be honest, the less radical conservatives in the country, give Mitt Romney a little more approval than they do to his rivals, but with 2% separating first and second place and 5% seperating third placce from second place, you can gather that most conservatives are pretty divided on who the nominee should be.
However, the Straw Poll of CPAC conference goers would seem to indicate that conservative activists are far less divided and while it is still close between first and second place, even there Romney receives a majority that beats Santrorum by one point more than he did in the national poll.
But I am not quite sure these polls really offer an accurate sentiment of conservative opinions this year. Straw Polls are easily influenced by the creativity of each candidates campaign and there ability to get a ballot in the hands of conference goers. Romney has typically had a great straw poll organization at CPAC, hence several previous wins there. Last year it was Ron Paul who won though. This year, Ron Paul did not attend CPAC and did not have any effort that coordinated his straw poll operation. Which accounts for his last place showing this year.
So although Romney won, I still can’t help but get a sense from the greater body of conservatives that the closeness of the race that reflected in the CPAC national online poll is more accurate and maybe even closer than that.
It was clear to me that at CPAC, Mitt Romney was among a significant number of conservatives who are still apprehensive about him and I suspect that there will be some future primaries and caucuses that prove that assessment to be true and that will even produce results that do not always find Romeny in first place.
Only time tell.
But in the meantime, tell us this. Of the three candidates who attended CPAC this year, who made the best case for why they are the best conservative to lead us and did so most convincingly. Below you will find videos of their CPAC speeches. If you haven;t seen them yet, take a listen to them and then vote in our White House 2012 Poll:
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