EXAMINER | Stephen Woodward | January 31, 2012
CPAC 2012 is scheduled Feb. 8-11 in Washington.
Although a combination of factors might be at play, including Paul's focus on the Maine caucuses, a changing of the guard at the top of CPAC's management team is likely behind Paul's exclusion.
Longtime ACU chairman David Keene left the organization following CPAC 2011 to become president of the National Rifle Association. Keene, who remains an ACU director, was replaced by Al Cardenas, the former chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
Rep. Paul, 76, a staunch anti-establishment libertarian, has for the past three years joined a lineup of high profile speakers on CPAC's Saturday afternoon agenda that builds to the final keynote.
He also has been the winner of the annual CPAC Presidential straw poll, which energizes the hundreds of college students who attend the conference through scholarship programs. However, supporters of the ACU and regular CPAC attendees worry that Paul voters skew the poll and erode its credibility.
In 2010, he blew away Mitt Romney in the straw poll on CPAC's final day, winning 31% of the vote to Romney's 22%. Sarah Palin, this year's Saturday wrap-up speaker, attracted just 7% of the 2010 poll, followed by Tim Pawlenty (6%) and Newt Gingrich (4%). The Huffington Post reported:
Paul was far and away the most widely anticipated speaker at the three-day conference, with his base of "Paulites" streaming into the main auditorium. ... In many respects, his win in the CPAC poll seemed pre-ordained -- his band of followers having a well-earned reputation for flooding polls and forums like these.
Last year, Paul surpassed Romney 30-23, with fellow libertarian Gary Johnson and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie garnering 6%. Gingrich trailed with 5%.
CPAC 2012 partially overlaps the Maine caucuses, which occur across a span of seven days, Feb. 4-11. It is a state the Paul campaign already has devoted resources to, and one in which Paul is confident he can pick up independent minded delegates.
A review of the CPAC Saturday lineup leading to Palin's keynote -- and first CPAC appearance -- also indicates a change in philosophy from recent years. More A-list speakers are booked into Thursday and Friday time slots, including author Ann Coulter and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton.