Texas Rep. Ron Paul opted to skip this year's Conservative Political Action Conference, making him the only GOP presidential contender not to put in an appearance at the annual Washington gathering.
Paul's absence is curious considering he has dominated the conference's presidential straw poll for the past two years, but campaign spokesman Gary Howard told Business Insider the candidate opted to skip CPAC to "concentrate on campaigning" -- and perhaps put his supporters to better use:
Howard told Business Insider that the campaign knew that if Paul spoke at the conference this year, his fans would descend on Washington to listen and represent their candidate in the straw poll. With this in mind, the campaign decided that those human resources would be of far greater use in the field, Howard said, where Paul is gearing up to compete in 12 Republican nominating contests over the next few weeks.
But despite Howard's explanation, Business Insider noted, Paul's public schedule over the past several days has been relatively light. As the Washington Post reported on the first day of CPAC Thursday, Paul's campaign said he wouldn't be attending due to "travel constraints" -- even though he had no public events scheduled for the day.
While Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich each spoke to the conference Friday, Paul appeared on CNN from his home state of Texas and spoke about the Maine caucuses. He is spending the final day of CPAC in Maine, where he's hoping to extend Romney's losing streak in the state's caucuses Saturday.
"I think we have a very good chance," Paul told caucus-goers Saturday morning, according to the Associated Press. Romney will "be better off if he wins it and I'm going to be a lot better off if I win. So this will give me momentum and it will just maintain his. It's a pretty important state as far as I'm concerned."
As Business Insider noted, Paul's CPAC absence could have the "added benefit" of "quelling tensions between the event's organizers and Paul's staunchly libertarian fan base." Despite sweeping straw poll votes, his vocal support base hasn't yet translated into actual presidential contest wins, and his supporters have previously "raised a ruckus as their views — particularly those on foreign policy — came into conflict with those of the other CPAC attendees."
Paul has also been known to take time off from the campaign trail during some key moments, the Post pointed out: He spent New Year's in Texas ahead of the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3. He ultimately finished third.