CPAC polls put Romney in front

Donal Blaney is the
Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation.

Last week saw the 34th
annual gathering of American conservative activists in Washington, DC.
From humble beginnings during the Watergate crisis when only 120 people
came to hear – among others – then Governor Ronald Reagan, this
year’s Conservative Political Action Conference was attended by over
6,000 people.

CPAC was addressed by
a number of leading conservative thinkers, journalists and political
figures – including most of the candidates for the Republican Party

John McCain refused to
come, offensively claiming that CPAC attendees do not represent conservative
activists and, insult of insults, were “Washington insiders”.

Delegates reacted rapturously
to two prospective candidates – former Massachusetts governor, Mitt
Romney, and former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich – and warmly to three
others: Senator Sam Brownback, former Governor Mike Huckabee and former
New York Mayor, Rudy Giuliani.

In conjunction with pollsters
Fabrizio McLaughlin, CPAC runs an annual straw poll of activists. Its
sample – 1,705 registered delegates – produced some interesting

Delegates were asked
why they thought the Republicans suffered the losses they did in the
mid-term elections in November. While 20% said that the Republicans’
own performance in Congress was to blame, 30% conceded that the War
in Iraq was the root cause. That said, 82% of delegates favoured the
decision to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq.

On foreign policy, a
massive 79% of delegates considered that US foreign policy should be
based on protecting its own economic and national security interests
– as opposed to 17% who felt that spreading democracy around the world
should be the basis of American foreign policy.

Turning to the philosophy
of the presidential nominees, 79% of delegates said that they would
be most likely to support a Republican candidate who called themselves
a Ronald Reagan Republican – as opposed to only 3% who would back
a George W Bush Republican.

As for the philosophy
of the delegates themselves, 50% were free marketeers first and foremost,
30% were traditional values advocates (particularly as regards abortion
and marriage) and 18% put personal and national safety at the forefront
of their beliefs. As a fellow free marketeer, I found it heartening
that we counted for half of the delegates.

So which candidate was
the first choice of the delegates? McCain – who didn’t attend CPAC
– still managed to achieve a creditable 12%. Gingrich – who hadn’t
spoken when the voting closed and who isn’t even a declared candidate
for the nomination – polled 14%. Sam Brownback, the conservative Senator,
polled 15%, Rudy Giuliani achieved 17% and the mormon, Mitt Romney,
won with 21%.

This came as no surprise.
Giuliani’s speech was disappointing (and he had no campaign presence
at all) while Romney, who boasted a youthful, large and enthusiastic
campaign team, spoke with confidence and pushed the right buttons.

Among free marketeers,
Romney and Giuliani were neck and neck. Brownback’s support suffered
as he fell behind even McCain and Gingrich.

Among traditional values
conservatives, Brownback naturally led the field while Giuliani’s
support fell.

Among security-focussed
conservatives, Giuliani and McCain polled well in comparison to Brownback
and Gingrich. What was startling was that Romney polled well among all
three classes of conservative.

Delegates were asked
to indicate their second choice candidates. Gingrich and Giuliani did
well in this ballot, perhaps reflecting tactical voting among supporters
of Romney and Brownback – both of whom seemed to recognize the importance
of gaining momentum from CPAC, even at this early stage in the presidential

When combining the first
and second choices of delegates, Romney fell into second place – for
which position he tied with Newt Gingrich. Brownback remained fourth
and McCain languished in fifth. In first place sat the former Mayor
of New York, Rudy Giuliani.

Before Rudy and his team
start thinking of his inauguration address, however, there is a massive
caveat to be borne in mind: in 2000, when Bush polled 40% of delegates’
first and second choices, McCain (who ran Bush close for the nomination)
wasn’t even mentioned. There is, after all, a long way to go before
Iowa and New Hampshire – although that said, the results of the CPAC
straw poll must surely be seen as a boost for Gingrich and Romney, adequate
for Giuliani (who remains the front-runner), a disappointment for Brownback
and a potential hammer blow for McCain.


8 Responses to CPAC polls put Romney in front

  1. Sarkis Zeronian says:

    I’ve seen some slightly different analysis of the CPAC Straw Poll from National Review’s “The Corner” (a blog contributed to by the writers of National Review, an American conservative magazine, for those of you unfamiliar with it):

    “Rudy Giuliani may have been the real winner of this thing though — that he did as well as he did with a self-identified conservative crowd. His speech had both an overarching theme and great moments — that frankly surpassed anyone else at one moment in particular. No one but Giuliani can give the defense of the Patriot Act and NSA surveillance that he did — comparing it to prosecuting the mafia. But I also had the sense he didn’t put a tremendous effort into his appearance — whereas Romney and Brownback had both people and signs, there were no Giuliani signs — and I even had the sense his speech was half-hearted, maybe because of fatigue. Imagine had he put in a full-fledged effort. That said, there would have been something off-putting about Rudy winning a conservative straw poll. But coming in second, without bussing anyone in — that’s not nothing.”

  2. Daniel VA says:

    Speaking of CPAC, has anybody seen this video clip of a typically thoughtful, balanced contribution regarding the 2008 presidential race by Ann Coulter?

    With somebody as vile as Coulter as their pin-up, it’s no wonder that the Republican right are so widely loathed.

  3. Tim Montgomerie says:

    I agree with you on Ann Coulter, Daniel.

    I wrote about her CPAC performance from last year at the time.

  4. Donal Blaney says:

    We are all entitled to our own analysis. The joy of actually being there to hear the candidates was to take the temperature of the room yourself. Great fun.

    As for Coulter, I am a fan of her writing but I fear, at times, she is unnecessarily mean and undoes a lot of the good work she otherwise does. That good work should not be overlooked in the rush for the high moral ground. That said, I made her my “Zero” yesterday on Up Front:

  5. Me says:

    So you were there for Ann’s speech? Did you laugh and clap like many of your co-delegates?

  6. Donal Blaney says:

    Yes I did, “Me”. I thought her speech was very amusing and powerful – except for the “faggot” line she used about John Edwards.

  7. Gilmore says:

    Powerful? Her speech was powerful? You sure your were there?

    Elsewhere I’ve seen it described as “a speech that was a series of joke after joke after joke after joke” and “a bunch of jokes on Gore, a bunch of jokes on Hillary, a bunch of jokes on Obama”. It’s stand-up, not a “powerful” speech.

    Powerful speeches are ones like Oliver Cromwell’s “in the name of God, go”, Burke’s “he is not a member of Bristol, but he is a member of Parliament”, Patrick Henry’s “give me liberty, or give me death”, Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, FDR’s “only thing we have to fear is fear itself”, Churchill’s “blood, toil, tears and sweat”, JFK’s inauguration speech, Reagan’s “time to choose”, Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”, and Thatcher’s “this Lady’s not for turning”.

    Ann Coulter writes amusing books and does bad stand-up which frequently goes too far. She is nothing like a “powerful” speaker.

  8. mamapajamas says:

    Sarkis Z…””Rudy Giuliani may have been the real winner of this thing though — that he did as well as he did with a self-identified conservative crowd.”

    I agree with this assessment… so far. The issues more “right” conservatives identify with… abortion, gays, and guns… are things a president would have little influence upon.

    The most that a president CAN do on any of these issues is appoint “constructionist” judges who would not be inclined to hunt through existing law to “find” rights that are not there.

    On the issue of abortion, for instance, Giuliani is pro-choice, BUT thinks Roe vs. Wade is a bad piece of jurisprudence and thinks it should be overturned. Thus he would appoint the kind of judge who would be a “fellow traveler” with the pro-life group. Overturning Roe would return the abortion issue to the State level, which is where we Republicans REALLY want it. We don’t all want it outlawed, but virtually all of us DO want more control over it, which can be accomplished at the State level where our voices are 50 times louder than they are in Washington.

    People are starting to understand this from Giuliani’s point of view, and the more people get an education on what a president can and can not do, the higher he’ll go in the polls.

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