Monday, February 13, 2012

Did Romney really win at CPAC?

As some of you may know, Mitt Romney won the straw poll at CPAC this weekend. This result somewhat surprised me: not because I don't think Romney has the most momentum in general right now, but because the people who attended this conference seemed to be way more fond of Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Walking around CPAC, all I saw was people clearly campaigning for Newt and Santorum, handing out bumper stickers and signs everywhere. However, what I didn't see was that same kind of presence for Romney. A Politico article alleges that Romney's campaign bought a bunch of registrations to CPAC in order to ensure his victory in the poll. Rick Santorum alludes to the fact that he believes Romney rigged the poll, commenting that his campaign "didn't pay for supporters" to come to CPAC. He also asserted how important it is that he didn't have to bribe his supporters to come out--they showed up all on their own. I think that a story like this one suggests just how desperate Romney might be to take back his winning streak after losing Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri consecutively. I do not necessarily believe that there is any truth to these accusations, but I think that it is an interesting tale to acknowledge.


B. De Graff said...

In response to Santorum's comment about Romney bribing his followers to come:

There were way more Santorum and Gingrich volunteers/campiegners present at CPAC. I'm not sure if these individuals were receiving payment for handing out stickers and signs for their respective candidate, but Romney certainly was not paying a bunch of people to hand out stickers and signs on his behalf. In fact, people working for Romney were hard to find/non-existent. He certainly was not paying a whole lot of money to 'bribe' people to hand out signs. I think that unfounded comment makes Santorum look whiney, accusatory, hypocrytical, and rediculous as his stickers and flyers were much easier to come by than Romney's. Also I read that Politico article and I do not think it is possible that the Romney Campiegn bought a bunch of tickets into CPAC just to win the straw poll because you had to register in person and they handed you the poll, IN PERSON! If the Romney campiegn came in large numbers for the straw poll, don't you think they would have taken the time to also hand out Romney stickers and signs just like the Santorum, Paul, and Gingrich people? The people handing out Santorum stuff probably voted for Santourm and the same for Gingrich. That means alot of the people that weren't visibly supporting a candidate voted for Romney. It makes no sense that he would spend the money to rig the straw poll, it just would not be economically or ethically worth doing. He didn't buy the Straw Poll, he just continued his quest to educate the Republican base on who has any chance of beating Obama.

Lachlan said...

Having attended CPAC, here's what I think is going on:

Electability is by far the most important issue to conservatives in this race - who has the best shot at beating Obama? Whether or not it's true, people seemed to have settled on Romney as the most effective challenger. But because his perceived electability - not his positions on issues - is behind his support, Romney backers are not as enthusiastic in their support as are Santorum or Gingrich fans. Romney's supporters are less likely to be vocal about it simply because they're not really voting to elect Romney - they're voting to unseat Obama, and simply see Romney as the best way to do that.

Santorum and Gingrich, on the other hand, don't have the electability factor working for them like Romney does. Hence, their supporters are more likely to cite the candidates' actual positions as the reasons for the support. They identify with their candidates far more than Romney supporters identify with theirs.

Ironically, the grudging support for Romney among conservatives who cite his electability may be exactly what prevents him from being elected. Even if he can secure the centrist vote, a successful campaign will require a fired-up conservative base - something Romney seems incapable of harnessing. I don't think a campaign platform built on a negative ("we need Obama gone") can be successful. Romney will need people to actually line up behind his policy vision, not just fall in line in the hope that he can unseat an incumbent, if he wants to win more than a straw poll and host of primary contests (see: Kerry, John).