Commentary Magazine


Is Ron Paul’s Straw Poll Success Actually Hurting Him Politically?

Ron Paul may have won the CPAC straw poll for the second year in a row, but that achievement hasn’t earned him any fans among some conservative activist groups. Young Americans for Freedom, a right-wing activist organization, has decided to remove Paul from its advisory board because of his positions on national-security issues:

“It’s 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 then our current socialist presidential regime,” said the group’s national director Jordan Marks.

The dispute between Paul and the group seems to stem from Paul’s anti-war activities and the prominence of his supporters at conservative events like CPAC.

“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,” added Marks.

Based on the amount of tension between Paul’s supporters and mainstream conservatives at CPAC over the weekend, this doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It also raises a question about whether the straw poll actually hurts Paul. The congressman offered heavily discounted tickets, lodging, and transportation in order to draw his mainly college-aged supporters to the conference. The point was to pack the event so that Paul ended up winning the straw poll. But the congressman’s fans — who tend to be young, loud, and confrontational — often clashed with other attendees.

This ill-will was even more pronounced after a few audience members — reportedly Paul supporters — heckled speeches by Donald Rumsfeld and former vice president Dick Cheney last Friday. The hecklers yelled, “War criminal!” “Where’s bin Laden?” and “Dick, where are the shekels?” before being removed from the audience.

And the widespread annoyance with Paul’s fans seemed to translate into increased animosity toward the congressman himself. His statements on foreign policy were loudly booed by many in the audience. And, for the second year in a row, the crowd also jeered Paul’s straw-poll win.

A Paul win in the straw poll is so predictable that it indicates nothing. It may still get him some media attention, but in the end, it may prove of little account if he’s actually interested in winning the support of the conservative base.