Ron Paul is not your ordinary cookie-cutter Republican. That much is clear. He has ardent fans and ardent foes on among conservatives, and he doesn’t sound like Sarah Palin, which is a point in his favor. But though he has some libertarian viewpoints, he also has conservative Christian viewpoints. He’s a mix of positions all across the Republican platform, against the Patriot Act, for the Defense of Marriage Act. It’s no wonder he got boos and cheers at CPAC.
At this year’s CPAC his equivocal status was on display for all to see. It was Ron Paul supporters who heckled Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, those two Bush-era stalwarts and war criminals. Cheney was there to introduce Donald Rumsfeld, who was there to receive this year’s egregiously inappropriately-named “Defender of the Constitution Award.”
Ron Paul supporters were on the ball, and you have to give them credit:
“Where’s bin Laden?” one shouted as the former VP stood at the podium.
“War criminal!” came another shout.
And at CPAC’s annual straw poll he carried 30 percent of the vote, ahead of Mitt Romney, who pulled in 23 percent. According to CPAC there were 11,000 people at the conference and 3700 of them participated in the poll, a fairly large sampling of those present. Paul has now won the straw poll two years in a row.
Here are the full results:
Texas Rep. Ron Paul: 30 percent
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: 23 percent
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson: 6 percent
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: 6 percent
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: 5 percent
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: 4 percent
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann: 4 percent
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels: 4 percent
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: 3 percent
Former talk show host Herman Cain: 2 percent
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: 2 percent
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: 2 percent
South Dakota Sen. John Thune: 2 percent
U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman: 1 percent
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour: 1 percent
Others: 5 percent
Undecided: 1 percent
That might be seen as a victory for Paul, but conservatives give and take away, perhaps demonstrating their disunity. Young Americans for Freedom (YAF) announced on Saturday that they were kicking Paul out – dropping him from the group’s National Advisory Board because of his “delusional and disturbing alliance with the fringe Anti-War movement.” Ron Paul had held the position for more than two decades.
How sad is it that an anti-war movement be considered fringe? It demonstrates how extreme mainstream Republican politics have become that being anti-war makes you a fringe lunatic.
According to YAF’s Senior National Director Jordan Marks,
“It is a sad day in American history when a one-time conservative-libertarian stalwart has fallen more out of touch with America’s needs for national security than the current feeble and appeasing administration.”
What can you say to that? I am uncertain when the need to go to war became synonymous with defense. Having a strong military does not mean using it. Certainly it is there to use, as a deterrent, to fight wars if need be, but the United States can be strong without attacking everybody in sight.
But Marks said,
“Rep. Paul’s refusal to support our nation’s military and national security interests border on treason, aside from his failure to uphold his oath to the United States Constitution and defend our country and citizens against all enemies, foreign and domestic.”
Okay, so not only is it delusional to oppose war, but it’s treasonous. I think the Republican Party has moved just about as far to the right as it can, don’t you?
“Rep. Paul is clearly off his meds and must be purged from public office. YAF is starting the process by removing him from our national advisory board. Good riddance and he won’t be missed.”
Ouch: Fringe…treasonous…and un-medicated. Sounds like a cat-fight building to me.
But while Ron Paul may not have the support of the real “fringers” out there like the YAF he does have the youth and he does have libertarians, perhaps a more potent combination than say, someone like Sarah Palin, who is hugely unpopular with most Americans. Lindsey Graham thinks Obama is beatable if Republicans can put up the right candidate and he’s not certain Ron Paul is the guy, despite his organization and energy, saying it’s a “big if.” Salon’s assessment is more brutal; they speak of the GOP’s “enormous, gaping 2012 vacuum.”
That he won the straw poll isn’t as significant as it might seem, given his victory last year. Salon calls him a “nonstarter” and his libertarian credentials certainly won’t help him win the hearts of the Republican base. To a chorus of boos, “the Donald” said at CPAC, “By the way, Ron Paul cannot get elected, I’m sorry to tell you.” He might be right, but this might well be said of every potential Republican candidate. As mentioned here yesterday by Jason Easley, the GOP candidate field has a huge “suckage” factor: in a recent FOX News poll, Ron Paul didn’t even get a mention. In fact, of those polled at CPAC, 43 percent said they wished for a stronger field of contenders. Ouch.
In the end, Ron Paul seems destined to remain on the sidelines; just as there aren’t enough of the base to elect Sarah Palin, there aren’t enough Libertarians to elect anybody.
Photo from CBSNews.com (Credit: AP Photo/Alex Brandon)