CINCINNATI (TDB) -- A year ago, more than a thousand of the nation's young conservatives gathered for an annual conclave in Washington where they voted in a straw poll designed to glean the GOP's likely nominee for president in 2008. And looking back, the results show the registrants at last year's Conservative Political Action Conference were poor prognosticators. Something else emerges, they may have been infected by Beltway Fever.
This is the question asked for the poll: "Thinking ahead to the 2008 presidential election, who do you think will be the next Republican nominee for President?"
Former Virginia Sen. George Allen won the contest. He got more than a fifth of the votes cast. There were 1,251 registrants at the conference, which is billed as the largest gathering of conservative political activists in the country. But their favorite has taken a header. He was defeated for reelection in Virginia -- losing to Jim Webb, a one-time Reaganaut turned Dem -- and Allen is no longer on anyone's list of contenders. Others who received votes in the poll and are out of contention today include Secretary Rice, Bill Frist, Rick Santorum and George Pataki.
On the Democratic side, the young conservatives saw Sen. Hillary Clinton as the likely nominee -- 64% picked her. But their No. 2 was Mark Warner, the former Virginia governor who is not running for anything this year.
CPAC has its 34th annual conference again later this week. Last year, about 80% of the registrants were college students. And 81% of those casting ballots in the straw poll were between ages 18 and 25. They seemed to have an affinity for Virginia candidates -- perhaps that is where many came from, perhaps they were too Beltway-oriented, perhaps they are lousy political handicappers. But -- it must be said -- attempting to be a long range seer is all but impossible. The poll results are HERE , with the GOP numbers on page 3.
Vice President Dick Cheney delivered a major speech at CPAC last year, and he had some problems of his own predicting what was going to happen in Iraq. This part stuck out:
"We are on the offensive in Iraq, with a clear plan for victory. Progress has not come easily, but it has been steady. In less than two years’ time the Iraqi people have gained sovereignty, voted for a transitional government, drafted a progressive, democratic constitution in the heart of the Middle East, then approved the document in a national referendum, and elected a new government under the provisions of that constitution. And in each successive election, there has been less violence, broader participation, and bigger voter turnout. Iraqis have shown that they value their own liberty and are determined to choose their own destiny—and America is proud to be an ally in freedom’s cause. (Applause.)"