CPAC is over! Here are some of my observations from Day Three.
1. The Straw Poll
Few were surprised when Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul won the straw poll, as organized Paul supporters flooded the conference. Experienced CPAC attendees sometimes refer to the CPAC straw poll as the “Paul Family Poll.” Paul’s win can’t be attributed entirely to supporter organization — there are a lot of young people and college students here with more libertarian views.
Jeb Bush’s fifth place win drew boos when it was announced. It was a poor showing for a candidate who tried to stack the vote with organized support. Potential presidential candidates who didn’t organize support suffered — Marco Rubio only got seventh place while candidates like Rick Santorum, backed by Patriot Voices got sixth place.
Walker placed fifth in the 2014 poll, and his strong second place 2015 win shows that he has coalesced a great deal more support.
2. No Keynote Speaker
Curious attendees who stuck around for the third day of CPAC were disappointed after the TBD speaking slot never materialized. Conservative author and radio talk show host Mark Levin spoke early in the morning, but participants had little to look forward to afterwards as they waited for the straw poll results.
The Club for Growth’s annual winter economic conference in Florida probably had something to do with it, as many of the potential candidates left Washington for that event.
One thing I’d like to see changed in the breakout sessions is more time for questions. The side rooms are small enough to reward more audience participation and would encourage more attendees to visit. By the time a five-person panel is finished making opening remarks and talking back and forth on their issues, there is often less time for questions at the end.