There’s a big difference between attending a conference for the conference and attending a conference for the primary purpose of supporting your candidate in a straw poll.
To use a sports analogy, it’s like the difference between cheering for a player as opposed to the team he plays on. And that’s why there is so much animosity between Republican activists and Ron Paul activists.
The party regulars don’t consider the Paul supporters Republicans while the Paul supporters don’t consider the GOP establishment true conservatives.
And they’re both right to some degree.
That Texas Congressman Ron Paul won yet another straw poll is no shock.
This is the kind of activity that the Paulistas/Paulistinians (don’t call them Paultards- which has a vile implication) specialize in and with “school out” for the summer, the June conference date was a boon to the college student driven effort.
These kids (and they are mostly young people, not that this once 22-year old state GOP committeeman thinks there is anything wrong with that) aren’t hauled in or bribed into going. They foot their own bills beyond the registrations and make sacrifices to travel about the country.
Rather than chasing Green Day, U2 or Phish, these whippersnappers are following the most prominent advocate of the Austrian School of Economics.
And perhaps breaking some possession laws along the way.
The Paulistas should consider making straw poll/concert t-shirts complete with the dates of the conferences they attend.
Now what’s the benefit of the traveling political carnival?
I say nothing. An ardent Paul supporter almost turned blue in the face when I discounted the value of the straw poll strategy.
But it’s true: Paul wins straw polls but loses delegate elections. Badly.
Until Paul can devise a way to breakout beyond the older libertarian/younger college campus crowd, their champion will have to settle for paper victories.
Huntsman’s Propaganda Victory
“The result demonstrates that young conservatives are responding to his record of success in Utah, willingness to take the debt problem seriously, and foreign policy message,” said a spokesman for former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman.
This absurd declaration would be slightly easier to swallow had Huntsman actually spoke at the event.
Let me clear something up right here: there was not an enthusiastic groundswell of support for a moderate that many people, including the activists attending the conference, have not even heard of.
Huntsman has participated in no debates and his “tribute” to Ronald Reagan’s campaign kickoff with the Statue of Liberty in the background is yet to come.
There might have been more legitimacy in the crowds in the rafters that chanted “We Want Willkie!” at the 1940 Republican National Convention than there was for Huntsman shadow straw poll operation.
The Huntsman campaign had no visible presence at all at the conference; but they had one in the straw poll ballot box via wholesale purchase of registrations.
The gambit, which I am certain set someone back a lot of money, was intended to have a surprise showing for a candidate with low name recognition.
Huntsman did score some favorable press as the second place showing did seem to come out of nowhere but the billionaire ex-Utah Governor/Ambassador to China known for penning flowery effusive letters to President Barack Obama will need more than an orchestrated vote hauling operation to win the Republican nomination.
And he may very well be the one candidate who has much more to explain to conservatives than Romney.
As the Huntsman “surge” was a sham, one has to wonder if there are not less expensive ways to get a pop.
The Rest of the Field: The “Honest” Votes
What’s relevant about the Republican Leadership Conference’s straw poll is that it was conducted less than a week after the first major debate of the 2012 presidential campaign,
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who in 2010 ran a much more aggressive and successful “vote haul” operation than Hunstman did in 2011, has decried the expense of participating in straw polls and his decline in the two conferences is significant.
After nudging past straw poll king Ron Paul in 2010, Romney received a relatively paltry 74 votes. But here’s the good news for Mitt, unlike in 2010 when the Romney camp was buying registrations for anyone with a heartbeat that would agree to support him in the straw poll, he had an honest showing at the 2011 RLC.
74 votes isn’t bad for a candidate not expected to do well in the south and made no effort.
Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann’s 191 straw poll votes are also probably “honest” when considering the reception she received by conference attendees and the major boost the plucky TEA Party favorite received from CNN’s New Hampshire Republican presidential debate.
Ex-Godfather’s executive Herman Cain, who spent very little on the event beyond having a hospitality suite off-site in a crowded hotel room, should also be proud of his 104 votes.
Texas Governor Rick Perry’s name was not on the straw poll ballot and the RLC organizers stated that write-ins were not accepted and would not counted. The policy caused some people in line who wanted to support Perry to become very irate.
It would have been interesting to see what support Perry would have received, even as a non-candidate, judging by the enthusiastic reception he received from conference attendees.
And My Vote Went To…
Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter received my vote at the straw poll for two reasons.
First, I figured it would be the next best thing to abstaining. Secondly I felt obligated to express my admiration for having the guts to poke Romney on health care.
McCotter did the job that ex-Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty was unwilling to do.