by Anne Hobson
After seeing the results of the straw poll—Rand Paul won with 31 percent of the vote—and the strong youth attendance at CPAC, it’s hard to ignore the bubbling question: could the nation stand with Rand Paul come 2016?
If the CPAC crowd of American-flag-short-wearing and bow-tied, self-identified patriots was representative sample of the larger population as a whole, then maybe. But as many speakers pointed out, we’re all a little bit weird to be excited by the vociferous shifting of political capital. Moreover, 64 percent of CPAC registrants were under 40. To put this in perspective, less than one third of voters were under 40 in the 2012 election.
Welcome to CPAC, where everyone’s title is honorable, and the votes don’t matter.
Common sentiments at this year’s conservative feel-good wonkfest included religious liberty, the benefits of school choice, and the perils of Obamacare. “Government is not our family, it is not the church, and certainly it shouldn’t be our doctors office.” Boomed Michele Bachman. Sarah Palin chimed in with some levity: “I do not like this Uncle Sam. I do not like his healthcare scam.”
There was a predictable undertone of Benghazi angst, and bitterness at NSA and IRS overreach. “The IRS has been turned into an appendage of the ruling party,” noted George Will. Ted Cruz advocated for abolishing the IRS.
Rick Perry, a candidate who has recently eluded the all-seeing eye of media attention, delivered a powerful message: “America’s future depends on the battle between the big government protectionist nanny state and the limited government unsubsidized freedom state.”
The unanimous focus of CPAC speakers was winning back congress in 2014. “Forget the barnacles, we got to get the ship turned around first!” said Ben Carson, neurosurgeon and rebel.
Ben Carson ranted against political correctness. A fiery Brit named Daniel Hannan ordered us to restore sanity to the federal budget as a matter of national security. Chris Christie refuted the fixation on income inequality and reframed it as opportunity inequality.
Ask a swag-clad passerby who they think the Republican candidate in 2016 is going to be. The nearly unanimous answer is some paraphrase of this: Well I wish it would be Rand Paul, but it’s probably going to be Cruz or Christie.
Somewhere between our hearts and our minds, Rand Paul drops out of the equation. Fiscal conservatives love the principles that Rand professes but have doubts about whether or not he can seduce the electorate in 2016. In the CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz came in 2nd with 11 percent of the vote followed by Ben Carson at 9percent, and Chris Christie with 8 percent. Traditionally, the 2nd place finisher has been the subsequent Republican nominee—Mitt Romney in 2010, John McCain in 2006, and George Bush in 1998. Are we ready for Ted Cruz 2016 bumper stickers?
Anne Hobson is a New Media Associate at The American Spectator.
Ervin Hobson of Center for Economic Liberty contributed to this article.