I don’t put a lot of faith in straw polls because they invariably tell you next to nothing about
what’s going on in a given political situation beyond that which could be gathered from the views of a very limited and un-representative sample of participants. These biased folks have likely been through a day or weekend of festivities tailored towards engendering a certain result in the first place.
(Note: As an example, Mitt Romney won the 2007 Values Voter Summit straw poll over Mike Huckabee. John McCain? He finished behind Rudy Giuliani in sixth place.)
That’s why the results of such a survey offered at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last weekend should be taken with a grain of salt. It certainly was fascinating to observe (for me, through TV coverage) the event attendees sitting riveted at the edge of their seats while the numbers were flashed on a screen behind the stage. Audible gasps were heard; a few “wows” slipped through lips and no doubt there were warm and fuzzy feelings among all the Trump supporters present. But was it valuable?
Still, if you’re a liberal cable news producer -- or a Washington establishment swamp leader (doesn’t matter which party) -- you had to be taken aback by the astonishing level of enthusiasm the former president registered at the annual gathering of the conservative movement’s movers n’ shakers.
In short, for those who’d already figured Trump would simply fade to nothingness after his final two less-than-inspiring months in office, capped off by the shocking-to-everyone mob scene on January 6, the CPAC straw poll tally had to amount to a kick to the teeth.
“Asked flatly whether they want Mr. Trump to run again, 68% said ‘Yes,’ making him the clear leader. When stacked up against a list of 20 other names in the straw poll, Mr. Trump was the pick of 55%, distantly followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who likely had a favorite son advantage…
“This year’s survey posed two 2024 straw poll questions: one with Mr. Trump’s name included and one without.
“When the former president was on the list, he got 55% of the vote, Mr. DeSantis got 21%, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem was third with 4%, and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley garnered 3%. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Ted Cruz followed at 2%, and no other candidate cracked the 2% mark. Without Mr. Trump, Mr. DeSantis led with 43%, Ms. Noem had 11%, and Donald Trump Jr., whose name was not on the poll with his father, was third at 8%. Ivanka Trump was ninth.”
Ivanka took ninth place? There definitely must’ve been a lot of giddy people there (1007 participated in the poll) in Florida. The presidential daughter delivers a fine speech and represents the Trump brand and family name well, but that’s a pretty high standing considering her well-known liberal views on a number of topics. It’s more realistic to see Don Jr. in politics since he’s been extremely active on the public relations front and he likes to give it (return fire?) back to his father’s antagonists almost as much as the top dog himself.
Gov. Ron DeSantis deserved his runner-up status due to his close affiliation with Trump, willingness to go to bat for the MAGA movement and for his effective governance. When the coronavirus panic was at high ebb last year, DeSantis remained calm and made sound decisions that made sense and saved jobs in his state. Good policy equals satisfied citizens, something they’re discovering in reverse in a good many blue states (New York? California?)
But as eye-popping as Trump’s personal popularity numbers were, CPAC’s feedback on the Trump agenda was even more useful. The Times’ writers also reported that, “A stunning 95% of those polled said the Republican Party must continue to pursue the issues of the former president. Mr. Trump also had a 97% approval rating.”
Without additional embellishment, no other Republican leader has ever enjoyed this type of devoted following. To some degree, Mr. Trump became an iconic conservative figure due to his combative personality, but more so because of the issues he promoted. Gee, what a shocker! Conservatives actually expect their politicians to keep their promises and enforce the laws? They were serious about that limiting illegal immigration thing? And about promoting America’s interests over those of other nations?
The establishment media told us that Trump’s response to COVID-19 was inadequate and amounted to hundreds of thousands of lives lost. Now, however, it’s been proven that Biden didn’t promise anything that Trump wasn’t already doing in the realm and the vaccines developed under Operation Warp Speed are almost entirely credited to the Trump people’s leadership.
Or what about no more stupid, expensive and costly-in-blood overseas wars? Could it be that parents don’t want to send their sons and daughters to face bullets and IED’s to try and mediate a thousand-year-old schism in Islamic doctrinal interpretation? Instead of using Americans to fight, why not recognize the real enemy -- Iran -- and foment peace agreements against the rogue country’s enemies like Trump did?
Assuming at least some liberals were paying attention to the CPAC poll results, they must’ve shaken their heads to see Trump make a comeback this quickly. It doesn’t add up to them. Weren’t people supposed to be permanently put off by the scenes of Trump fanatics breaking windows in the capitol building and running/walking roughshod through the hallways?
Didn’t they see Mitt Romney sprint for his life that day? (It looked like Romney set a record for over-70 40-yard-dash time!) Sympathy, please! Sheesh, can’t Americans agree on anything anymore?
Whereas Democrats, liberals and assorted Trump-haters of all shapes and sizes want everyone to be perpetually outraged by Trump himself and the behavior of a few hundred overzealous outcasts on one day in January, conservatives much prefer checking items off their issue wish-list. Over the passage of time -- and release of facts -- overreaction is the wrong impulse. When the dust settles, only reality remains. And Trump was a dang good president.
Again, these were “only” CPAC attendees expressing their views. But those conservatives who powwowed in Orlando are indicative of the pulse of the grassroots. What seemed obvious before is now practically written in stone now: the old Bush establishment (represented by the Bill Kristols and Lincoln Projects of the conservative universe) is history.
Donald Trump, with all his flaws, gave us a taste of what it was like to have a Republican president stand up for the issue agenda conservatives have championed for decades. Trump may or may not be the candidate going against the Democrat nominee (here’s thinking it will be Kamala Harris) in 2024, but his agenda will be on the ballot regardless.
That’s an actuality that even a straw poll might live up to.
CPAC Straw poll
Donald Trump Jr.
Trump approval rating
Mitt Romney running