Ron Paul wins CPAC Straw Poll; Pawlenty and Bachmann draw tepid support

From MPR’s Brett Neely in Washington

In a hotly-contested preview of next year’s Republican presidential nomination process, Congressman Ron Paul, R-TX, won today’s straw poll at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC with 30 percent of the vote.

The results were likely a disappointment for the possible presidential aspirations of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-MN, who both drew 4 percent each of the 3,742 votes from conservative activists.

In the crowded field of Republican contenders for the White House, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in second with 23 percent of the vote. The third place winner was former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson with 6 percent of the vote.

Other potential Republican presidential candidates on the straw poll ballot included former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sen. John Thune, R-SD, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, all of whom drew single-digit support.

Many candidates and other high-profile Republicans, such as commentator Ann Coulter, spoke before spirited crowds at the three day long event held at a hotel in Washington, DC. Two other prospective candidates, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, did not speak at the conference but were on the ballot, drawing 3 and 2 percent of the straw poll vote respectively.

While far from a representative sampling of Republican voters who will ultimately decide on a GOP nominee, a strong showing at CPAC can help potential presidential candidates raise money, attract volunteers and draw media attention. The conference is heavily dominated by young conservative activists and skews towards the GOP’s libertarian and fiscally conservative wings rather than the socially conservative segment of the party.

Both Pawlenty and Bachmann gave fiery speeches toutting their conservative credentials and ripping into the President Barack Obama. They also sought to show off their potential advantages as candidates.

In her speech, the first of the conference on Thursday morning, Bachmann called for the entire Republican coalition to unite with the goal of defeating President Obama in 2012.

“For our conservative coalition to be victorious in 2012 it will take every one of us, and then some, pulling together to bring the three legs of this conservative stool together,” said Bachmann. “The fiscal conservative leg, the national security leg and the social conservative leg to work together. We cannot shun each other for 2012.”

Pawlenty highlighted his record while governor of Minnesota, pointing to his fiscal policies while in office as a sign of his fitness for the presidency.

“We cut government in Minnesota, and if we can do it there, we can do it anywhere,” Pawlenty told a packed crowd Friday afternoon.

Pawlenty continues his shadow campaign for the White House Sunday, with an appearance on ABC’s The Week.

  • The story was that Ron Paul paid entries for some of his supporter to attend … however, considering the repeated attempts by Pawlenty to excite this crowd, it must be considered a disappointment. Not sure if the 3,472 was the actual number of voters or just the number that attended the conference … as it is not uncommon for many people not to bother voting.

    That said, the numbers reported :

    Ron Paul: 30 percent

    Mitt Romney: 23 percent

    Gary Johnson: 6 percent

    Chris Christie: 6 percent

    Newt Gingrich: 5 percent

    Tim Pawlenty: 4 percent

    Michele Bachmann: 4 percent

    Mitch Daniels: 4 percent

    Sarah Palin: 3 percent

    Herman Cain: 2 percent

    Rick Santorum: 2 percent

    John Thune: 2 percent

    Mike Huckabee: 2 percent

    Jon Huntsman: 1 percent

    Haley Barbour: 1 percent

    Donald Trump (write-in): 1 percent

  • Rich

    I wonder what percentage of the voting public CPAC represents? But I guess the point is that they represent the GOP base/delegates and caucus folks.

  • Rev Greg Trask

    Newt Gingrich: 5 percent

    Tim Pawlenty: 4 percent

    Michele Bachmann: 4 percent

    Mitch Daniels: 4 percent

    Sarah Palin: 3 percent

    Hmm, “tepid” is indeed the right word to describe their level of support. Meanwhile, I smell another Ron Paul “money bomb” in the works!

  • toby5555

    Greg: “Meanwhile, I smell another Ron Paul “money bomb” in the works!” What is that? I admit, I haven’t paid attention to Ron Paul.

    Reading the poll results, who do we think could emerge as a truly electable threat to Obama’s second term? Who is the most “normal” who would appeal to the vast middle undecided vote?

    My guess: Romney, or none-of-these.

  • Curt

    Well, as of the end of January, Pawlenty’s book sales have numbered less than five thousand copies. I don’t think we’ll be seeing his pumped up chest on the campaign trail in 2012. His claims of good governance in Minnesota just can’t be held up to any rational scrutiny. I’m actually rather surprised that there was even a 4% vote for him.

    If Bachmann were to devote as much time working for the sixth district, as she does making appearances on ultra conservative talk shows, there might actually be some job creation there.

  • George

    It’s been so long since Bachmann has been back to Minnesota, that I doubt if she knows how to get here anymore. What a joke she is!!

  • FTJ

    I really don’t think this vote means a thing in the long run. We’ve got over a year and a half to go.

    Look at Sarah Palin’s numbers. She received less votes than either Pawlenty or Bachman. Does that make sense?