Based on reports from a number of sources, Ron Paul just won the CPAC straw Poll by a substantial margin. Ron Paul obtained 30% of the vote, Mitt Romney obtained 23%, and the rest of the field (13 identified candidates) all obtained less than 10% of the vote. I am happy for Ron Paul, and happier for his supporters (I still have a Ron Paul 2008 sign in my office), but more importantly I feel the results of the straw poll show a lack of enthusiasm among the conservative base.
First the results of the straw poll show good organization: Ron Paul and Mitt Romney have organized supporters. They can not be ignored, and the Republican nominee will need to figure out how to appeal to most of these supporters if the nominee wants to actually win the Presidency.
Second the results show a lack of organization among the rest of the field. The first primary and caucus will occur in less than a year, and at arguably the biggest meeting of conservative activists, most potential candidates did not put up a fight.
Only one third of the attendees at CPAC actually voted. If all of them had voted for the same candidate, that candidate could have won with 65% of the vote, with Ron Paul coming in second. Even among those who cared enough to show up to CPAC, most of them are unenthusiastic about supporting anyone in the field as it stands.
If Republicans want to defeat President Obama they will need to set aside their differences and learn to show enthusiasm for more than just our chosen candidates. Perhaps the lack of enthusiasm translates into an ability to support a broad range of candidates. Otherwise, it is time for conservatives to start adjusting to four more years of President Obama.
I am personally hoping Ron Paul runs for the Senate in 2012 in retiring Sen. Hutchison’s seat.