Ron Paul, yes, Ron Paul wins another straw poll; grass-roots surge for the Republican?
Another big win for Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas today. A runaway win, too.
Paul easily captured the straw poll at a regional Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans, picking up nearly twice as many votes (612) as the second place finisher, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (382).
Another Republican representative, Michele Bachmann, came in third with 191 votes, and business executive Herman Cain was fourth with 104 votes. No one else topped 100 votes.
Paul also beat out Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum, among others.
Coming after Paul's widely hailed performance at last Monday's first major GOP debate in New Hampshire (scroll down for that story), Paul's latest win (he also won the straw poll at last winter's CPAC conference) will likely energize his already-energized supporters as signs that their man is gaining grass-roots strength among likely Republican primary voters.
Straw polls, of course, are as lasting as, well, straw. They mean absolutely nothing about winning actual delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., in August 2012.
However, they do serve to call weekend media attention to a successful candidate. And, Paul's supporters hope, cause them to look more into Paul's libertarian small government, antiwar, anti-foreign-military-involvement stances, which drew him significant applause during Monday's debate.
Ticket readers will recall that someone named Romney won the big-time Ames Straw Poll in Iowa in July 2007.
The Iowa Republican Party has convinced many in the slow-news summer days that what is actually its traditional July fundraiser somehow matters on the scale of campaign import.
Candidates spend more than $1 million to ship in busloads of supporters, buy them tickets and food and try to pack the ballot boxes on a humid Saturday.
However, in 2007 another former governor, Mike Huckabee, who finished second in the summer straw poll, came along to derail Romney and actually win the Iowa caucuses six months later. Romney has said he will not compete in Ames this time around.
But in the early days of primary campaigns like this, straw polls and real polls are the only actual measurement of a candidate's possible strength among party voters. Paul has not done so well recently in independent professional polls, which Paul supporters dispute and denounce as biased.
Seriously, who among us has ever been asked if he/she supports the 76-year-old Air Force veteran, former OB/GYN and 11-term congressman from southeastern Texas' 14th District?
But straw poll wins do succeed in gaining candidates much-coveted media attention and are then cited by supporters as proof of their candidate's credibility.
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photo: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters (Paul and Romney, June 13); Richard Shiro / Associated Press (a happy Paul).