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Off to the races: Recapping CPAC

Rand Paul won the CPAC straw poll with Marco Rubio a close second, 25%-23%. First Read: “Forty-four others, including write-in votes for Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, and Allen West, got 14 percent.” But: “Before anyone makes too much of the results, remember that the last person to win the straw poll three years before an open presidential election (no incumbent) was Rudy Giuliani in 2005. While Giuliani led in many national polls, he only won 1 delegate in the Republican presidential primaries in 2008. And in 2006, the winner was George Allen, the former Virginia governor, who had his 2006 Senate race sunk by his YouTube utterance of "macaca," a term he used to describe a Democratic video tracker.”

USA Today: “Since 1976, only Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush have won the CPAC straw poll and gone on to win the White House.”

NBC’s Kasie Hunt with eight takeaways from CPAC: (1) 2016 was definitely on the speakers’ minds, (2) For the first time in a generation, the party has no frontrunner, (3) Gay marriage isn't the wedge issue it used to be, (4) All three legs of the GOP stool are wobbly, (5) Politicians who want immigration reform are still afraid of the Right, (6) No one really argued conservatives need a fundamental change in attitude — except Jeb Bush, who wasn’t on the straw poll ballot, (7) CPAC stands with Rand, (8) Chris Christie won by not showing up. 

Beth Reinhard on Mitt Romney’s CPAC speech: “The truth is that the reformed moderate from Massachusetts was never quite at home among movement conservatives -- though he tried very, very hard, describing himself as a “severely conservative Republican governor” at last year’s conference.  His patrician demeanor also put off minorities, young people, and women. For a man who always looks great in a suit, Romney always looked uncomfortable in his own skin on the campaign trail. His first public speech since his November defeat was as lackluster as most of his stump speeches and as about as forgettable as his candidacy. He will be better remembered for what he did wrong (‘47 percent’ and ‘self-deportation’) than what he did right (his first debate against President Obama). He was a transitional, not a transformational nominee.” 

Ann Coulter slammed Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush on immigration at CPAC. 

Sarah Palin and Karl Rove got into a back and forth over the weekend. Palin took shots at Rove in her CPAC speech. Rove fired back: “I appreciate her encouragement that I’d go home to Texas and run for office. I would say this, though, I don’t think I’m a particularly good candidate, sort of a balding, fat guy. And second of all, I’d say if I did run for office and won, I’d serve out my term. I wouldn’t leave office mid-term.”

David Plouffe said Hillary Clinton would be “an enormously strong candidate, if she decided to run” in 2016. “She is in both parties right now, by far, I think the most interesting candidate, probably the strongest candidate.” He joked that if she called him, of course he’d take the call, “even if it’s at 3 a.m.” (though he said he wouldn’t run her campaign.)

NBCNews.com: “An attempt to illegally obtain absentee ballots in Florida last year is the first known case in the U.S. of a cyberattack against an online election system, according to computer scientists and lawyers working to safeguard voting security. The case involved more than 2,500 “phantom requests” for absentee ballots, apparently sent to the Miami-Dade County elections website using a computer program, according to a grand jury report on problems in the Aug. 14 primary election. It is not clear whether the bogus requests were an attempt to influence a specific race, test the system or simply interfere with the voting. Because of the enormous number of requests – and the fact that most were sent from a small number of computer IP addresses in Ireland, England, India and other overseas locations – software used by the county flagged them and elections workers rejected them.”

MASSACHUSETTS: It was the St. Patrick’s Day Dinner and the one-liners flew. Sen. Elizabeth Warren joked, per the Boston Globe, about the papal elections: “I thought Cardinal O’Malley was a sure bet until I found out who was running his campaign: Eric Fehrnstrom.”

Stephen Lynch: “Either I will be the first ironworker elected to the US Senate, or Ed Markey will be the first ice-cream truck driver. So we’ll either have a voice for working families, or a voice for Ben & Jerry’s.”

NEW YORK: “Disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner's dormant New York City mayoral campaign paid more than $100,000 to a San Francisco-based polling firm earlier this month, suggesting the once-prominent Democrat whose career was derailed by allegations he sent salacious texts and photographs to various women online was contemplating a return to politics in this year's elections,” National Journal reports.  

SOUTH CAROLINA: “The voters weigh in Tuesday on former Gov. Mark Sanford's hopes of a comeback, four years after his political career was derailed by his tearful admission of an affair that gave new meaning to hiking the Appalachian Trail,” AP writes. “Sanford is one of 16 Republicans vying in Tuesday's primary in South Carolina's 1st Congressional District along the state's southern coast. Voters will choose candidates to fill the seat left empty when Gov. Nikki Haley appointed Tim Scott to the U.S. Senate.”

The story closes with a quote from this Charleston cab driver: "He was good to South Carolina and the only thing he did was to take that little hike on the Appalachian Trail and lied about it. But, you know, we have had presidents who have done the same thing. Americans forget easily. I think it was $600 million he didn't accept from the federal government and never raised taxes.”