The CPAC event just concluded in Washington, DC has
proven, through its straw poll, to be another mostly
irrelevant marker in the presidential election cycle.
The winner of the straw poll was Kentucky Senator Rand
Paul. Coming in second was Wisconsin Governor Scott
Walker. Third and fourth were Texas Senator Ted Cruz
and Ben Carson. Only Mr. Walker has a serious chance
to win the nomination, but his finish at CPAC had already
been foreshadowed weeks before, following a speech he
made in Iowa, and in all of the recent polls. Coming in a
distant fifth at CPAC was the Republican frontrunner
former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Further down the list
was New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a potentially
serious contender, especially after the first debates and the
primary/caucus season begins.
The next GOP presidential campaign marker will be the
Iowa Straw Poll in Ames in August. This will be, as it has
been in the past, another mostly irrelevant event. In 2011,
the Straw Poll winner was Michele Bachmann who turned
out not to be a serious contender. The Straw Poll rarely is
won by the eventual GOP nominee.
A parade of self-promoting wannabes, such as Donald
Trump and Rick Santorum, will continue to win media
headlines in the coming months, and various other political
figures will attempt to rise about the lower tiers of the
field. It can be done. Scott Walker has already done this.
But the eventual nominee will be someone who can win
votes in the primaries and caucuses from the broader base
of the conservative Republican Party. And if that nominee
is to win the presidency in November, 2016, he or she will
need to win a majority of votes from the non-affiliated
independent voters in the nation. A good many, if not most,
of those voters are more centrist than the base voters of
either party, and that is why the serious contenders for
president do not come from the far right or the far left.
On the Democratic side, the party awaits the formal decision
of former New York Senator Hillary Clinton. She has been
the overwhelming frontrunner of her party for 2016 from
the beginning. Her image and her numbers have declined a
bit in recent months, and her “handlers” have thus kept her
out of the campaign spotlight, but her lead remains very
large. Only Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has
emerged as a potential threat, yet Mrs. Warren might not
There are two campaign seasons in the race for president of
the United States. The earlier and longer one is managed
with the cooperation of the political party activists and the
news media. It is usually an extended melodrama punctuated
by such events as the CPAC conference, the Iowa Straw Poll,
Jefferson dinners and talk shows where large numbers of
hopefuls attempt, with histrionics and bravado, to become
larger than life, and grab the notice of the relatively few folks
who are paying attention. The second campaign is the one
where voters increasingly pay attention, beginning with the
primaries and caucuses, and which climaxes on Election Day.
I don’t have to say which of these campaigns counts most.
Copyright (c) 2015 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.