As I reported yesterday, Donald Trump used his introduction to the people who will help make or break the longshot presidential bid he's considering - the attendees of this week's Conservative Political Action Conference - to make his views on libertarian congressman Ron Paul very apparent.
"I like Ron Paul, I think he's a good guy, but honestly he has just zero chance of getting elected," Trump told CPAC Thursday as a group of rowdy Paul supporters booed loudly.
Neither Paul's staff nor his dedicated fan base have taken kindly to Trump's comments. This from National Journal:
Joe Seehusen, Paul’s former deputy campaign manager, had one question for Trump: "What do you know about politics? I like Donald, but I think Donald gets carried away sometimes." He added there "was a certain preposterousness" that Trump, who has never held public office, could criticize an 11-term congressman for not winning election.
That criticism was mild compared to a release circulated Friday by Young Americans for Liberty, which claimed simply that Trump was flat wrong in his assertion.
Hundreds of philosophical quizzes collected by student organization Young Americans for Liberty (YAL) found CPAC 2011 conference-goers overwhelmingly aligned themselves with pro-liberty figures Rep. Ron Paul and President Ronald Reagan. The quiz results contradict surprise CPAC speaker Donald Trump's assertion, labeling Rep. Paul "unelectable" -- a statement met with hearty boos from the conservative crowd.
Rep. Paul won CPAC's influential straw poll last year with a historic 31% and is expected to run away from the field of conservative presidential hopefuls once again this year.
"If Donald Trump left his private planes and chaeffeured limousines long enough to interact with the youth of CPAC, he would understand Ron Paul and his message of liberty deeply resonate with students, the future of the conservative movement," said Jeff Frazee, YAL's Executive Director and Ron Paul's 2008 National Youth Coordinator.
Paul is disproportionately popular among people, but that doesn't necessarily belie Trump's claims. Yes, Paul ran away with last year's CPAC straw poll, and may do so again this year. But YAL seems to believe that CPAC attendees are an accurate cross-section of the American electorate. Sure, Paul might capture more of the youth vote than Romney, Gingrich, or Pawlenty, but that doesn't mean he'll win.
Paul's dedicated fan base is widely credited for his straw poll victory. Virtually no other Republican presidential contender has strong appeal in libertarian circles. So while CPAC's libertarian element tends to consolidate its support behind Paul, folks without those philosophical leanings are likely to split their support among the large field of remaining candidates. Hence, Paul is more likely to emerge with a plurality.
So YAL is not strictly correct in the essential statement of that release, summed up nicely in its headlines: "Political Philosophy Quiz Proves Donald Trump WRONG". There's not really much "proof" in that quiz.
Paul's son Rand, a freshman Senator from Kentucky, was a bit more lighthearted about Thursday's exchange. CNN reported Friday:
The son, Senator Rand Paul, seemed amused by the whole thing. Laughing he told CNN Donald Trump "decided to mention something about the un-electability of my father and the crowd was somewhat partisan towards my father and they didn't like it." He added "I think it was probably a mistake for him to say in that crowd."
When asked by CNN about Donald Trump's chances of winning should he run for President the Senator said he considered making a joke about that topic during his own address to CPAC but then decided to take the high road.
Still, when pressed he smiled and said of Trump: "I think his chances are less than my father's."