Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s third straw poll win yesterday at the Conservative Political Action Conference reinforces that the annual gathering is misnamed — it’s a libertarian-leaning event, not one that accurately represents the Republican party as a whole, political analysts say.
“It’s had, for the last eight, nine years, much more of a libertarian bent than what most people perceive it to be — the Super Bowl of conservative gatherings,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell.
Paul won this year’s CPAC straw poll with 26 percent of the votes while Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was a close second, receiving 21 percent of the votes. Paul also won the CPAC straw poll in 2014 and 2013.
The three-day CPAC conference was held in suburban Washington and drew a large crowd of college students. O’Connell said the strong libertarian representation is due in large part to the overwhelmingly young attendees — nearly half of the 3,000 attendees who voted were 25 or younger.
“It’s going to naturally have a libertarian break based on the percentage that was openly in favor of marijuana legalization,” he said. “When you’ve got that many students, that’s going to be the case.”