Monday, February 22, 2010

CPAC – not good news for Mitt Romney . . . not bad news for Scott Brown

By Bernie Quigley

- For The Hill on 2/22/10

There are two measures of current conservative taste and popularity. The CPAC poll indicates professional opinion and should measure abilities of the candidates as they are judged by professionals. The second is the NASCAR track, the Baptist church and the popularity of the candidates in the heartland for whatever reason. Mitt Romney, who won the last three CPAC polls, lost by a good margin this year to Ron Paul, the conservative libertarian who offers Austrian economics. This is bad news for Mitt Romney.

As a technician, none could be better than Romney, but a politician requires some level of appeal to the heartland, where Romney hasn’t done as well, say, as Ron Paul and Sarah Palin. A recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll showed Palin in the lead at 16% while Romney came in second with 11%.

To be elected in 2012, Romney would need full pull of the professionals at CPAC to counter weakness in the heartland and he doesn’t have it. Paul is now the rising favorite of the young conservatives at CPAC .

I see Paul as a sincere and vital figure that will parallel and stabilize a new approach to government – a “wise grandfather” figure to a new generation. But he will not be President. He and his son Rand Paul will carry a supportive theme alongside much as his friend Ralph Nader did in 40 years of liberalism. In that regard he may be a harbinger of American things to come. I believe he is.

And an endorsement of Ron Paul can be seen as an endorsement of his son Rand, the Tea Party favorite running for Senate in Kentucky. Can also be seen as a major plus for the national candidates who have supported Rand’s positions. Sarah Palin, who wisely stayed away from the CPAC gathering, has endorsed Rand Paul, although she opposes some of his positions on foreign policy, especially regarding Israel. Mike Huckabee told CNN the conference as increasingly irrelevant to the conservative movement and accused its organizers of conducting a "pay for play" event. The 2008 GOP presidential candidate said the "truly grassroots" energy on the right lies in the Tea Party movement.

The CPAC results bring three to the top: Ron Paul and Romney with Sarah Palin in third at 7%. It is not surprising that Palin did not do well among the technicians and the Beltway people at CPAC. Her popularity, like Ron Paul’s, is grassroots and from the heartland, and if it was a bad day for Romney and a good day for Paul, it cannot be said to have been that bad a day for Sarah Palin.

And a good day for Scott Brown. Although he wasn’t included in the tallies, questions have come up about him running for President in 2012, but concerns expressed about his interfering with Romney, to whom he is beholden for vital support. But if Romney, champion of the Republican Establishment and the older generation, determines the season has passed by this time next year, Brown would have no ethical barriers to entry and could even have Romney’s support.

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