Open thread: Glenn Beck keynotes CPAC; Update: CPAC straw poll won by ... Ron Paul

6 p.m. ET on Fox News, although you may want to tune in a few minutes early: The hot rumor circulating on bloggers’ row is that Sarahcuda might swing by to introduce him.

This is the rare CPAC speech that’s genuinely unpredictable, with Beck claiming last night on his show that he hadn’t decided yet what he was going to say. Palin and Rubio spent the past week using their cred among tea partiers to nudge them towards uniting behind the GOP (provided the GOP reorients itself towards smaller government, of course); if there’s going to be any pushback to that message, it’ll come from Beck tonight. And why shouldn’t it? He’ll never have a better opportunity to speak directly to the Republican/conservative establishment than this. If he truly believes third parties are the way to go, at least in the short term, let ‘er rip and make the case. Why, he’s even got a handy news peg available to help make the point.

Erick Erickson calls it his “coming-out party” within the conservative movement, although depending upon how bareknuckle he gets with Republican bigwigs, it could be a short party. Stand by for video afterwards. The thread is open.

Update: Romney won the straw poll the last three years but the Paulnuts had their act together this time. For one evening, the three-percent rEVOLution is a 31 percent rEVOLution:

Ron Paul has ended Mitt Romney’s three-year run as conservatives’ favorite for president, taking 31 percent of the vote in the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual straw poll.

Paul, a Republican congressman from Texas known for his libertarian views, ran for president in 2008 but was never a serious contender for the GOP nomination…

The straw poll is not binding — and not necessarily a good forecaster, given that in 2008, John McCain went on to take the party’s nomination over Romney.

Romney came second with 22 percent and Palin finished third with seven percent. Yet another reminder that the wisdom of “insiders” ain’t always that wise.

Is the huge Paulnut contingent in the seats tonight good news or bad news for Beck?

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