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CPAC Picks Favorites; Who Do You Want to Run Against Obama in 2012?

The Conservative Political Action Conference has concluded its 2009 gathering by releasing the results of a straw poll that reveal not only the preference of members for a 2012 presidential candidate to run against Barack Obama, but also the mood of conservative activists regarding future presidential races, the current president and the current state of politics in America.

The following is the frequency distribution of 2012 presidential preferences articulated by CPAC members attending the 2009 conference (not to be taken for a representative sample of Americans, Republicans or even conservative Republicans by any means):

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney 20 percent
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal 14 percent
Alaska Governor Sarah Palin 13 percent
Texas Representative Ron Paul 13 percent
Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich 10 percent
Undecided 9 percent
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee 7 percent
South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford 4 percent
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani 3 percent
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty 2 percent
Florida Governor Charlie Crist 1 percent

(percentages do not sum to 100% due to the accumulation of rounding errors)

How seriously should the results of this straw poll be taken as an indicator of the strength of various Republican presidential candidates? Although the CPAC straw poll is meant to be a public relations device to show off the clout of Republican conservatives, the disjuncture between the trends in this poll and actual political events communicates the opposite. In 2007 John McCain finished fourth in the CPAC straw poll, but he mopped the floor with his Republican competitors in 2008. If anything, the CPAC straw poll’s poor predictive ability is an indication of the weakness of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. As conservative a candidate as John McCain was compared to Barack Obama, he was heretically moderate from the CPAC faithful’s point of view, and yet the Republican rank and file chose him in the 2008 primaries.

If the 2009 CPAC straw poll will probably be a dismal failure at predicting the identity of the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, why bother looking at the poll at all? While it’s a rotten indicator for the presidential nomination, it’s a sterling indicator of what it actually is, which is the collected opinion of conservative activists interested in reidentifying themselves and reinvigorating their movement.

Who are these conservative activists, what do they think of themselves, and what do they think of their leaders? They’re young (73% under the age of 40). They’re men (only 29% of respondents said they were women). They’re dittoheads (Rush Limbaugh is their most-mentioned “favorite conservative media personality”). They’re gullible, too: although a majority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate (including liberal stalwarts such as Barbara Boxer, Russell Feingold and Sherrod Brown) just helped to pass a repudiation of the Fairness Doctrine, and although House Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman and President Barack Obama have directly denied having any plan to reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine, CPAC respondents nonetheless have responded to the hysteric, counterfactual right-wing media campaign claiming the Democrats are somehow planning to reintroduce the Fairness Doctrine and — of all things — abolish free speech. CPAC respondents placed restoration of the Fairness Doctrine in the top three of their list of concerns about Democrats in Washington, prompted by the CPAC question which — counter to available evidence — labeled it as one of “President Obama’s and the Democrats in Congress’ policy initiatives.”

Returning to the subject matter of the 2012 elections, although Mitt Romney might be posing for the cameras in celebration right now, behind the bright teeth he should be nervous. That frequency distribution you saw presented a slate of names rather than offering attendees the chance to name their own dream candidate without prepared suggestions. Only 55% percent of respondents indicated they were “generally satisfied with the field of potential candidates,” while 44% agreed with the sentiment that the field of contenders could be better.

As the itty bitty roots emerge from the tiny acorn beneath the dead shell of an oak tree, so the conservative movement starts its effort to grow its way back into the political canopy. Now you know who conservative Republican activists have picked from a list of prepared favorites for 2012, and you also know that almost half of them are waiting for someone better. But what about you? Who would you like to see running against Barack Obama in the presidential elections of 2012? Why?

8 comments to CPAC Picks Favorites; Who Do You Want to Run Against Obama in 2012?

  • I would like to see Russ Feingold run against Barack Obama, on the grounds that Obama has broken his promises to bring real change and restore our constitutional rights.

    Don’t think I’ll see it happen, though.

  • Tom

    Kucinich would be my pick for the same reasons cited above.
    i’d like to see more parties get involved and be more viable. i know that would mean breaking up or amending a lot of rules to keep the system the way it is, but i’m sure i’m not the only one disgusted with the way things are progressing (negatively) with regards to the Constitution and the two parties (of the same people) system we’re constrained by now.

  • Tom

    As it is, i don’t think we have 8 more years – we either get it right now, or we’re going the way of the Roman Empire.

    Right now, politics does NOT work (hasn’t for the past 8 years) to change anything FOR the people of this country (unless you’re very wealthy or a corporate zombie).

    • Jim

      Anything? So the Lilly Ledbetter Pay Act didn’t do anything? So when Congress the minimum wage was raised last year it didn’t do anything? Anything?

      The Roman Empire went a lot of places.

  • Nancy

    It is horrible if halfwits like Romney, Jindal and Palin are even on the list.
    There is a clear CRISIS with the leadership, among the Dems too. Obama is fantastic, Gates is great, but Biden, Clinton, etc. are mediocre people. Where are the fresh ideas?

  • lepelerin

    I don’t think this list means anything for the 2012 elections. I wonder what John McCain got 4 or 8 years ago, probably 2 percent of the vote.

  • Shadysider

    I would suggest first, Ron Paul, and second, Kucinich. They both are moderately independent of the larger Republican Party, haven’t espoused the same-old, same-old rhetoric that almost the entire GOP espouses and what now, most of the country laughs at. On top of this, the younger generation will be much more inclined to choose either of them. Outside of them, Mitt currently seems the only choice. Palin is hardly worthy of a mention, and Jindal is not ready for prime-time either. Paul and Kucinich are the only real options. If anyone else runs, the best the Republican Party can hope for is the sae results as 2008.

  • When I look at a position such as President and Vice President of our country, I want to see completed terms which include state governorships, members of US Congress who have completed their terms, and would consider some former members of the cabinet. I do like to see some military experience. Most of all I want to see accomplishments in their respective states and with their records. There are several I like as people. I do like Governor Haley Barbour. I also hear about the Governors of Minnesota, South Carolina, Massachusetts, and Arkansas. There are other states I also hear about like former governors from Virginia or Pennsylvania and Ohio. I think a combination of positions I have mentioned makes a person even more qualified. What I don’t want is an all one-issue candidate or a candidate that has a record of towing only a one-party line because Presidents and Vice Presidents are required to represent the people, not just a few interests. I don’t want somebody who is extremely polarizing but instead, somebody who is pragmatic. I know somebody who knows how to use the media but yet is secure enough to have one’s own convictions and is not swayed by daily media polls. I want somebody who will keep legislation less than 100 pages long, preferably the length of the US Constitution, Delcaration of independence, or Gettysburg Address. legislation should be proportion to the speeches on the issues. Our officials and judges must be able to read the legislation. Also the length of legislation may minimize earmarks and other practices if kept shorter. Great writing does not have to be lengthy writing. We expect our officials to read a lot. WE expect them to know what they endorse and especially what they pass. I expect the President to know what he signs.

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