Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll

Boos as Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll. Paul 31%, Romney 22%, Palin 7% and Pawlenty 6%. Obviously straw polls don’t matter. The only reason this is news is because the enthusiasm of Ron Paul supporters carried the day again in a circumstance where intensity trumps genuine broad appeal, upending expectations. So perhaps someone who knows more about political organization can explain this to me: why don’t they just rig straw polls so that no one is surprised and the establishment is happy?

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28 Responses to Ron Paul wins CPAC straw poll

  1. Ironman says:

    I’ll remind you that “One man with courage makes a majority” – Andrew Jackson Was talking about people like Ron Paul and his supporters

  2. John says:

    Because its the primary election paradox all over again. CPAC represents the hardest of the hard core. While they’re there, they are the establishment. I’d love to see a study correlating the electoral winnings of CPAC attendees versus final tally in the primary (or general, for that matter). I don’t think it would be pretty.

    Also: Creationist, Mormon, Creationist, Creationist, in that order. Nice.

  3. Susan says:

    What’s interesting, if I read the article correctly, is that forty-eight percent of the voters in the poll were students at CPAC specifically there to support Paul. They put a lot of energy into their support.

  4. Jeeves says:

    Susan: I think you read that correctly. Ties in nicely with Andrew S’s post on millennials. With very few exceptions, CPAC was remarkable for its lack of seriousness. Glenn Beck? Really?

  5. Mike H says:

    The John Birchers apparently were amongst the co-sponsors this year so I think we can gladly disregard this event. If they had voted for a platform it probably would have included a plank denouncing Abraham Lincoln as a proto-Bolshevik.

  6. This does matter. At a time when the Republican party is so scattered and leaderless, any prominent early polling can have a great deal of impact on the public awareness of lesser known candidates.

    Ron Paul has excelled in the straw polls throughout the last election cycle. He got a late start last time. I’m hoping that this time he doesn’t get swept under the rug by a bunch of neocons suddenly pretending to embrace Libertarian ideology.

  7. Susan says:

    Jeeves: I can’t escape the feeling that the enthusiastic support for Paul among college students has something to do with legalizing drugs. Just a wee feeling.

    MikeH: It’s funny you should mention Lincoln being branded as a proto-Bolshevik. At yesterday’s memorial commendation of the secession, in Alabama, one of the organizers, Patricia Godwin, referred to Abe as “bin Laden Lincoln.”

  8. Adam says:

    Susan, as a student I can tell you that the legalizing drugs issue is not the issue students care about most. The way in which Ron Paul sticks strictly to his philosophy and ideology is extremely seductive to young minds, and the fact that there even exists a politician with a self-consistent philosophy which can be followed rigorously is something we don’t see very often. The politicians we associate with the establishment seem to have a philosophy based on transient feelings, while Paul (and the perception is that it is really only Paul) talks about ideas.

  9. Roger Hallman says:

    I was a fan of Dr. Paul leading up to the last election cycle and for the most part I still like his message. What attracted me to him? He’s opposed to sticking our noses in the business of countries where it doesn’t belong. I might not go to the logical extreme in my views that he does, but a shift in the country’s policies in his direction would do us all immense good. Dr. Paul has also been pretty consistent, he’s been crusading against the American policy of funding both sides of conflicts for several decades.

    As far as the whole drug legalization thing, would a change in how we handle the drug problem be much more disastrous and wasteful than our current ineffectual policy? I’d like to see it up for a legitimate debate, we can’t even get that now because the War on Drugs is such a paradigm–albeit a failed paradigm–and a cause for more centralized government authority.

    That said, is’t the CPAC straw poll something of a counter-indicator? I mean, if I recall, it’s not picked a successful candidate after Reagan. If anything we can say that Ron Paul has finished first in the prestigious race to not be President.

  10. Roger Hallman says:

    I would also add that the once CPAC that I attended my support went to Steve Forbes, and we all know how well that turned out.

    There are usually a few very serious people at these events and a great freakish side-show.

  11. Jeeves says:

    Susan: You know, of course, that Wm. Buckley Jr., no libertarian, was also for legalizing drugs. But you make me wonder: how prevalent are drugs these days on college campuses? Anywhere near what they were when I was taking Purple Owsleys about 50 years ago?

    I’m hoping that this time he doesn’t get swept under the rug by a bunch of neocons suddenly pretending to embrace Libertarian ideology.

    The rug he flies on? Two sure GOP winners: End the Fed and a return to the gold standard.

    And just which neocons are pretending this embrace of Libertarianism? I must have missed something.

    The most embarrassing moment at CPAC was when some dumb kid got up to “denounce” CPAC for inviting GOPride to the convention. He cited “reason” as the predicate for sexual behavior: Natural Law=Reason=Reproduction. He didn’t say whether or not he was a neocon.

    The GOP is leaderless? Given what’s on offer, may it remain so:

    (Buckley’s buyer’s remorse is showing, but he’s still fun to read.)

  12. Mike H says:

    Susan: And those neo-secessionists are of course indirectly at least linked to Paul.

    And Adam, I know what you mean with regards to Paul being someone who sticks with his beliefs and how that has a major appeal to people in this age of retail politics but really who is most convinced he’s right and most likely to stick with his conviction? A fanatic.

  13. Susan says:

    Jeeves: Yes, I do recall Buckley’s stand on the issue. I can’t say, exactly, how extensive drug use is at colleges nationwide. (My school has a rep for it, so it might be unfair of me to generalize from that.) Certainly they’re always forming useless task forces to agonize about the issue.

    Adam: Thanks very much for your reply. Your use of the word “seductive” was interesting, and troubling, in a sense. Is it the certainty or the principles themselves that appeal? If the former, that could be dangerous.

    Mike H: I just did a bit of quick Googling on Paul and secessionism. Very interesting connection there.

  14. brandon says:

    One obvious thing I haven’t seen mentioned much is that Ron Paul will be 76 years old in 2012. Can a 76 year old launch a serious bid for the presidency in this day and age? Even McCain was only 72. None of the potential GOP candidates inspire much enthusiasm.

  15. R.K. says:

    CNN is blatantly pushing fear propaganda by it’s “Cyber Attack Simulation” airing tonight. Check out

  16. Andrew Stuttaford says:

    I’ve always thought that the “war on drugs” is silliness in the extreme.

    Jacob Sullum’s “Saying Yes” is well worth reading both on that topic and the wider question of drug use. FWIW, I reviewed it for NR a few years back:;col1

  17. kurt9 says:

    Small government economic conservatism seems to be the “big tent” theme of the tea party movement.

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  20. sg says:

    Ron Paul is the most likely to fanatically try to cut spending. He is also hard core no amnesty. So compare that to Romney, health care in Massachusetts, and the others all soft on immigration. Paul is a fanatic so yeah, he is probably in line with a bunch of traumatized conservatives.

  21. Marylander says:

    There is the not-so-minor issue of Ron Paul’s economic philosophy. Sure he wants to cut spending and taxes but he also wants to abolish the Federal Reserve and presumably move to a gold standard. This is a very radical policy position, one taken seriously by very few.

  22. Mike H says:

    The economic radicalism and the “wild card” foreign policy ideas of Paul are really what makes him unelectable. It’s a sad testament to how far the GOP elite has fallen that a guy like Paul is being given even half-serious consideration.

  23. kurt9 says:


    Ron Paul is the only politician who is talking about the moral hazard of inflation and other manipulation of the currency by it being controlled by monopoly power, either in the form of congress or a monopolistic central bank. Of course his advocacy of a return to the gold standard is silly. This shows either a lack of sophistication about finance or that the rumors about him believing in Jewish conspiracy theories are correct. Nevertheless, Paul does deserve credit for making an issue of the manipulation of the value of our currency for political expediency. No other politician has the balls and integrity to talk about this.

    A far better solution than the gold standard would be to allow the use of multiple currencies in all financial transactions in the U.S. The currencies could foreign currencies such as the Swiss Franc or Singaporean dollar. Or they could be entirely private currencies. The competition between the multiple currencies would eliminate the twin moral hazards of inflation (artificial creation of money supply) and deficit spending on the part of the federal government.

  24. Marylander says:

    Foreign currencies would just be controlled by foreign central banks. The idea of competing currencies is one I find quite fascinating. We would have Citi-bucks, Bank-of-America-Dollars, etc etc. Each issuing institution would have incentive to maintain the value of its respective currency.
    I agree partially with you that Paul is the only one raising the issue of inflation however he and the Austrian School use a different definition of inflation than the rest of the world. They consider any increase in the money supply to be inflation. While increases in the money supply are usually inflationary, they are not in and of themselves inflation. Increases in the general price levels are what the rest of the world call inflation. The Austrians argue that this is labeling the symptom as the disease.
    I wouldn’t call Paul unsophisticated but rather ideological. The Austrian School rejects empiricism in the field of economics and bases its philosophy entirely on deductive reasoning starting with (their) axioms. It’s interesting albeit misguided (in my opinion).
    I don’t think he believes in Jewish conspiracy theories either. Maybe he believes that a cabal of evil bankers are trying to take over the world, but not necessarily Jewish ones.

  25. kurt9 says:


    The Austrian school of economics does indeed define inflation differently than the rest of us. I tend to be skeptical of their definition as well. In my opinion, the CPI metrics we had prior to 1993 were a perfectly fine metric of inflation. What is clear to me is that Greenspan pushed the Bureau of Labor (which actually puts out the CPI index) into redefining it three times during the 90’s, hedonic factors, quality inprovement, and indexing factors; that are clearly fraudulent. Greenspan’s understatement of the CPI allowed him to set the interest rate lower, by about 2-3 points, than he otherwise would have without setting off an inflationary spiral. The resulting expansion of the money supply is what lead to the 1995-2007 bubble. This is the moral hazard that created the bubble and resultant marketplace distortions. Ron Paul is the only politician to make an issue of this, and this is what I give him credit for.

    Unlike Ron Paul, I believe the current concepts of fiat currency and the Federal Reserve system are fine PROVIDING that the head of it all exercises the fiscal discipline that Paul Volcker did during the 80’s. The problem is that the moral hazard of inflation is generally too tempting for most politicians and central bankers to avoid. Thus, they inflate the money supply at a greater rate than the economic growth rate.

    I believe that the money supply should be increased at the same rate as the economic growth rate. Not less or more. I also believe that the marketplace itself should set the interest rate, not any central bank such as the FED. I believe the current system is fine providing these two criteria are met. However, the moral hazard of increasing the moeny supply at a faster rate than the economic growth rate is often too tempting and the central bank often lacks the self-discipline to resist this moral hazard. This is the reason why I believe a system of competing multiple currencies is necessary to eliminate the temptation of this moral hazard.

    It is true that Ron Paul is ideological. However, ideology is often the substitute for a sophisticated understanding of a complex issue and I believe this to be true about Ron Paul, with regards to financial issues.

    Personally, I subscribe to Austrian economics. However, it must be tempered with empiricism. At the same time, “empiricism” should never be used as a cover for rent-seeking behaviors.

  26. Marylander says:

    I think we see this pretty much eye to eye. I was very hopeful to see that Volker is advising Obama. I keep thinking “for the love of God listen to Volker and ignore Krugman!” But Volker is proposing that politicians make difficult decisions that will cause short term pain for long term benefits, not unlike his policies in the early ’80s. Fat chance Obama and Pelosi will pursue a similar path.
    I blame Greenspan for so much of this crisis, I think the collapse of the Tech Bubble was “supposed” to be much, much more painful for us but Greenspan used 9-11 as an excuse to juice the economy with absurdly low interest rates.
    I once heard Greenspan blame congresses deficits and debt for inflation and claim that because he has no control over the budget, the Fed can’t be blamed for inflation. I might has misinterpreted what he meant to say but I’m pretty sure I got the message. While I think this is true, it’s also true that if the Congress is spending beyond what can be financed, the Fed has to raise interest rates. Instead, we had absurdly low interest rates.
    I like the idea of competitive currencies, is this something the Austrian School endorses? I was under the impression that they wanted commodity backed currency.

  27. kurt9 says:


    The concept of competitive currencies come from several friends of mine that I met in the late 80’s in the space/life extension milieu of SoCal. It is not from the Austrian theory of economics at all. There is supposed to be an internet information resource on the internet, but I have yet to dig it up.

    The problem with commodity-based currencies is that they tend to be pro-cyclical in that they exacerbate recessions. This is because, being commodity-based, they do not allow for the expansion of money supply to accompany organic economic growth. Thus, they tend to be deflationary in times of economic growth. This is the reason why fiat currencies were invented to replace them.

    Worse, if someone discovers a major new reserve of the commodity (like what the Bre-X discovery of gold would have been if it had not been a hoax), the result is a major collapse in the value of the currency. This is of greater risk today than, say, a century ago because resource prospecting technology has dramatically improved since then. This systemic risk is arguably worse than the moral hazard of inflation.

    Commodity-based currencies worked fine in the Malthusian conditions of the pre-industrial world when there was little to no real economic growth. The advent of industrialization allowed for real increases in wealth over sustained periods of time which, in turn, requires an expansion of the money supply to accompany the real economic growth.

    An overview of the Bre-X hoax:

  28. Le Mur says:

    @Andrew Stuttaford
    I’ve always thought that the “war on drugs” is silliness in the extreme.

    I prefer the term “barbaric” because millions of harmless people have been hurt by it, and I think it’s based on three things:
    – Christian temperance
    – In its early stages, propaganda from the tobacco, alcohol and cotton industries; Hearst’s yellow journalism.
    – The widespread acceptance (to the point that it’s almost never mentioned, much less questioned) of the policy requiring the permission of a state-certified doctor for access to most drugs, and then only state-approved drugs: citizens generally accept being treated like children.
    – A significant subset of the people attracted to “governing” want an excuse to meddle in other people’s lives; in other circumstances it might be the tax collector or the thought police.

    “The war on drugs is a failure because it is a socialist enterprise.” — M. Friedman

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