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Ron Paul gets embarrassing boost at CPAC

Republican Congressman Ron Paul of Texas is not the face of modern conservatism that many of the more image-conscious people on the political Right would like to project.

He’s a libertarian– opposing the federal “War on Drugs” among other things– and an isolationist, opposing the invasion of Iraq and US aid to Israel and all other countries.

When the overwhelming majority of Republicans and Democrats in the US House of Representatives passed a resolution during the Gaza war– supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas, reaffirming US support for Israel and backing a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine– Paul was one of a handful of representatives to oppose it. Here’s the explanation he gave on the House floor:

Although there’s no evidence that Paul is personally antisemitic, he is the founder and honorary chairman of a political organization called Campaign for Liberty. As I posted last year:

Adam Holland has taken the trouble to slog through the C4L’s website, and reports that it’s full of such things as The History of Satanic World Banking (guess who the satanic world bankers are) and The Bolshevik-Zionist Axis.

I don’t know how much of this stuff Congressman Paul believes, but he doesn’t seem concerned about it appearing on his website. At the very least, I suspect it reflects the views of a large number of his “grassroots” supporters.

I bring up Ron Paul again because he was one of the featured speakers at last week’s meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference (aka “the conservative Woodstock”), an annual gathering that draws thousands of rightwing true believers to Washington. Among the sponsors was the John Birch Society (of “Eisenhower was a communist” fame) and other speakers included former Vice President Dick Cheney and possible GOP presidential candidates Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, as well as leading members of Congress. In other words, even some “mainstream” Republicans (or what passes for mainstream these days) decided it was a good idea to show up.

But a large number of conference attendees showed where their hearts lay when it came to vote in a straw poll on their preferred candidate for President in 2012. The winner was– not Romney, not Pawlenty, not even Sarah Palin (who failure to appear at the conference may have disappointed some), but Ron Paul, with 31 percent of the vote.

Politico.com reported:

As the results were displayed on twin large screens in the ballroom — and even before Republican pollster Tony Fabrizio could announce who had won — a cascade of boos came down from a crowd that views Paul and his fervent supporters as irritants. Paul’s backers responded with cheers, though, when their candidate was then proclaimed by Fabrizio as the winner.

CPAC organizers were plainly embarrassed by the results, which could reduce the perceived impact of a contest that was once thought to offer a window into which White House hopefuls were favored by movement conservatives.

A spokesman for the conference rushed over to reporters after the announcement to make sure they had heard the unmistakable boos when the screen first showed Paul had won the straw poll.

While less than 30 percent of the 10,000 conference attendees voted in the poll, and it would be a mistake to read too much into the result, I can understand the embarrassment.