CPAC Debate Is Not What Will Get You Elected

On the opening day of the conservative lovefest CPAC, who would show up but Donald Trump. Trump attacked President Obama's leadership and said that the United States is "becoming a laughingstock" around the world.

I can’t resist but to suggest that the self-inflating loudmouth billionaire has now made CPAC the laughingstock of many Republican voters who may not be in the mood for yet another unqualified, preposterous gazillionaire toying with throwing his hat in the ring.

It’s bad enough that there is serious talk of Michelle Bachmann as a contender. Sarah Palin is performing the role of dangerous sniper by lurking in the woods in camo clothing and unnerving the entire rest of the potential field of presidential wannabes with her “will she, or won’t she?” drama spiel. By not attending CPAC, she got as much buzz and a more threatening position than she would have by showing up.

Then there is the unbelievable absence at CPAC of Mike Huckabee who is way ahead in the early Iowa caucuses polls. Everyone was asking, “What’s his game plan?” How can the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses and clear first choice in the “first in the nation” state be playing so coy? Is he actually planning to bow out and sit on the sidelines in a scrumptious year for Republicans following the Democratic implosion in 2010?

And over there, is Mayor Bloomberg in New York still making presidential contender gurgling sounds.

As I have said, the ones who did not attend are as intriguing as the ones who did.

Then there is the frontal assault by some ultraconservative groups against the dwindling gay Republican voters by boycotting CPAC because GOProud, the Republican gay organization, had a booth.

The main theme of CPAC has been fiscal conservatism, with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) getting wild applause and the largest audience of the event with his demand that $500 billion be cut from the federal budget. Remember that Rand and his dad Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) emphasize fiscal issues and do not throw red meat on social issues. That makes it all the more interesting that Rand got such a huge and enthusiastic crowd.

Of course, “The Donald” fired himself right in the foot with his assertion that neither Paul could be elected president of the United States. All I can say is, "As if, Donald." As if. You have a snowball's chance in hell!

And all I have to say to Newt Gingrich is, eliminating the EPA is about #312 on the list of issues an overwhelming majority of Americans are concerned about.

Gallup asked Americans “What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?”  in their January 2011 poll. On economic issues,  unemployment and jobs got 29 percent, the economy in general came in at 26 percent, and the federal budget deficit/federal debt got a mere 12 percent. After that, the responses fall to lack of money at 4 percent, fuel and oil prices at 3 percent, and taxes with 2 percent. For “non-economic problems/issues," poor healthcare and hospitals and the high cost of healthcare scored 13 percent. Gay rights and abortion were less than 0.5 percent.  And “big government” was never mentioned by a single one of the respondents. 

So tell me, how are opposition to big government, gay issues, and abortion gonna get you elected president?

Steffen “Dr Politics” Schmidt, is University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, a Des Moines Register blogger, and Chief Political and International Correspondent for He has studied, written and commented on the Iowa caucuses since 1970 and is a frequent commentator on television including CNN en Español. He is the lead author of the most widely used textbook American Government and Politics Today (Cengage Publishing) now in its 17th edition.