To say the least, I was shocked. “Ron Paul wins straw Poll,” read the caption as MSNBC flashed images of Glenn Beck and CPAC banners across my TV screen.
“Are Republicans sick? Is this some kind of trick?” I thought to myself.
On Saturday, Paul received an astonishing 31 percent of 2,395 CPAC votes, ending Mitt Romney’s three-year winning streak. Although only 25 percent of attendees participated in the poll, voter turnout was a record high. Romney came in second with 22 percent of the votes and conservative darling Sarah Palin with a weak 7 percent.
Perhaps conservatives have seen the “libertarian light?”
A more likely explanation for the Paul upset was the age of the attendees — poll results show that more than half were between 18 and 25 and 48 percent of registered voters were students. Paul has been a favorite of both college students and military personal.
But even more revealing are the results of a CPAC poll question asking voters to define their ideology. An overwhelming 80 percent of those polled said their most important goal is to “promote individual freedom buy reducing the size and scope of government and its intrusion into the lives of its citizens.” The conservative talking-point-issues of gay marriage, abortion and national defense seemed unimportant.
Video coverage of the event clearly shows Paul’s notoriously zealous supporters in attendance. And evident by the expressions on the faces of the older, established conservatives, not all in attendance were happy with the results.
In a phone interview with FOX News following the event, 74-year-old Paul attributed his popularity to his message of liberty.
“The principles of liberty is a very young idea, we haven’t had freedom for the individual much more than a couple hundred years,” Paul said. “We have to be young at heart.”