Op-Ed: Despite CPAC win, Rand Paul still trails Jeb Bush in pre-primary

Posted Mar 1, 2015 by Calvin Wolf
For a third year in a row, likely 2016 Republican presidential candidate Rand Paul, senator from Kentucky and son of three-time GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul, has won the CPAC vote. But this vote does not mean electability, so Jeb Bush still leads.
Rand Paul: Unemployment benefits extension would be a  disservice  to workers
Rand Paul: Unemployment benefits extension would be a 'disservice' to workers
Gage Skidmore
CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is the biggest annual convention of Republicans, featuring everyone who's anyone on the right half of the U.S. political spectrum. From moderates like Jeb Bush to radicals like Ted Cruz, the entire cast of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates was at the recent 2015 CPAC, speaking to crowds of conservatives. This year, achieving a three-peat, U.S. senator Rand Paul (R-KY) won the CPAC straw poll, which declared him the candidate whom conservative conference-goers felt most likely to win the presidency. With 26 percent of the vote, Paul trumped a wide field of competitors, ranging from second-place winner Scott Walker, the embattled governor of Wisconsin, to fifth-place winner Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida and member of the Bush political dynasty.
According to CBS News, Paul has declared the CPAC straw poll the "gold standard" in politics. Unfortunately for Paul and Walker, the CPAC straw poll is more a measure of ultraconservative popularity than real electability. The attendees of CPAC, and thus participants in the straw poll, are likely to be far more conservative than the electorate.
And there is a difference between popularity and electability, which candidates and voters will do well to keep in mind.
Scott Walker, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Chris Christie are popular for their outspokenness and use of potent rhetoric. Unfortunately, their anti-government rhetoric in 2015 may come back to bite them in the early primaries of 2016, when they are forced to change their respective tunes. There is also the looming question: "If you dislike government so much...why are you in the government?" Opponents, especially liberals, could point out the difference between wanting a better president and wanting a non-president.
In 2016, regardless of whether you are a liberal or a conservative, can America thrive with a do-nothing president?
No, the Oval Office needs a president who has faith in the federal system. Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, who are among the few Republicans not advocating for an elimination of top-down government policies, may seem like big-government cronies to the CPAC crowd. However, they have the right idea when it comes to electability. The GOP must be prepared to present voters with alternate strategies on issues like health care, national defense, higher education funding, taxation, and social welfare...not non-strategies.
Republicans who ride high on the ultra-conservative, libertarian wave of non-government need to realize that that wave will crash when the primaries actually get started and they must strive to appeal to moderates and independents. Jeb and Marco may be lagging now, but they will leap ahead of the pack in 2016. Slow and steady on the rhetoric wins the political race.