Interesting post-straw poll talk coming out of the just concluded Conservative Political Action Conference: John McCain's campaign is grinding its gears badly among the conservative base, and it made a strategic blunder in not sending its candidate to the event.
McCain advisers have been telling the media that McCain had longstanding conflicts, pointing to an Arizona fundraiser he was attending, but we hear that McCain was invited to CPAC more than eight months ago and immediately turned down CPAC boss David Keene's invitation cold.
Judging by the straw poll results, which saw McCain trailing such people as Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, and Sam Brownback, McCain does indeed have a conservative base problem.
Last July 24, The American Spectator reported on a briefing former Speaker Newt Gingrich received that provided him with an overview for running for president. Gingrich denied the existence of such a briefing. Well, judging by his increasingly svelte figure (the report suggested that Gingrich lose a few pounds), and his approach to such events as CPAC (where he also out-straw polled John McCain), Gingrich in fact is laying the groundwork for a late entry to the race. Some believe it will come as late as July or August of 2007, which used to be a good time to enter the race back in the slow, non-front-loaded-primary days.
Brownback is by far the candidate of choice among social conservatives, and given his performances in the South Carolina straw poll, where he had no professional help -- compared to Romney, who has 11 full time employees in the state and finished behind Brownback -- and CPAC, where he had enthusiastic if sometimes overly rude supporters, he should now be considered Ringo to the John, Paul and George in the primary race.
Former Sen. Fred Thompson wasn't even on the agenda at CPAC, but his cast a huge shadow across the event. By Sunday, folks were buzzing more enthusiastically about Romney and Brownback and Gingrich...but still talking Thompson. Interesting.
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