The annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Freak Show has closed up shop after another year of dishing red meat to attendees who came to town with a dull gleam in their eyes and a three-pack of condoms in their wallet (purchased during the first G.W. Bush administration) and then left town with both still in place.
In between speeches from death merchant publicist Wayne LaPierre turning his guns on BENGHAZI! and health care reform and The Great Northern Screech Owl trying out her Larry the Cable Guy routine for people who find Larry too erudite, conventioneers shuffled among assorted merchants and grifters who gave out conservative tchotchkes in exchange for email addresses which will then be traded between themselves like so many biker chicks, because 'thar's gold in them thar rubes.'
Since Amanda and Josh and Dave have had their whack at CPAC, I thought it would be informative to take a look at the list of CPAC Presidential Straw Poll winners over the years because it looks like a list of American Idol winners except, in the case of CPAC, every winner every year is pretty much Taylor Hicks. But a few caveats before we begin ....
First, CPAC had some off years so there are gaps between straw polls. Secondly, straw polls are highly unscientific and, unless controls have been put in place, participants can vote multiple times. Lastly, candidates sometimes bring in their fans to puff up their numbers figuring a straw poll win will boost their credibility (see, Bachmann, Michele, Ames straw poll). So, having established those as our ground rules, let's dig in:
- 1976 - Ronald Reagan - Reagan had been on their wish list since his 1964 speech at the Republican Convention. However, that year, a damaged GOP lined up behind Gerald Ford. Did not end well.
- 1980 - Ronald Reagan - Lights, camera, action! You're on...
- 1984 - Ronald Reagan - Incumbent, also: Republican Jesus. May never have been aware that he was re-elected.
- 1986 - Jack Kemp - Kemp, a man so dull he makes Kelly Ayotte look like Sophia Vergara, always had a fan club. Come see us later, Jack.
- 1987 - Jack Kemp - Passed over in '88 for Poppy Bush AND Dan Quayle. That had to leave a mark.
- 1993 - Jack Kemp - Post- Poppy Bush regret.
- 1995 - Phil Gramm - Never got the nod, but did lead the fight in gutting financial services regulations that led to the sub-prime apocalypse.
- 1998 - Steve Forbes - Creepier looking Donald Trump, but with better hair. Then again, who doesn't have better hair?
- 1999 - Gary Bauer - HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA - oh Jesus - HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. HA.
- 2000 - George W. Bush - Won with an assist from Ralph Nader. (See inevitable argument in the comments)
- 2005 - Rudy Giuliani - Rudy 911 spent over $50 million to nab one delegate for the Republican convention.
- 2006 - George Allen - Career went macaca.
- 2007 - Mitt Romney - We love the rich guy.
- 2008 - Mitt Romney - We still love the rich guy.
- 2009 - Mitt Romney - We still really really love the rich guy.
- 2010 - Ron Paul - The rise of Crazy Uncle Liberty (h/t Charles Pierce)
- 2011 - Ron Paul - Bro-dudes are GO!
- 2012 - Mitt Romney - Finally! What....? He lost....? You suck and you are terrible and I hate you, Mitt Romney.
- 2013 - Rand Paul - The rise of Crazy Cousin Liberty
- 2014 - Rand Paul - and he's not Hillary!
As you have probably noticed, in four of the past five years the CPAC straw poll has been taken over by the libertarians who are the Scientologists of political parties. Therefore so you can probably pencil in Young Rand for the next two years because, once you're in that cult you can check out anytime you want, but you can never leave.