What the straw polls mean for Ron Paul and the Republicans

In the GOP straw polls, conservative voters win and the president loses. Photo: Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY, October 9, 2011—Ron Paul is certainly amped. Another straw poll victory for him. Were it not for Michele Bachmann’s brief flirtation with top-tier status, he would now have four major straw poll wins on his resume this year.

Paul has an extraordinarily disciplined and effective organization nationwide, ready to deploy at these major events. His win reflects as much.

But what does it mean in the bigger scheme? These things can have an impact in three ways: instant if fleeting media attention, public perception of viability, and fundraising muscle. Paul will get his deserved share of the media limelight for a few days.

Yet ironically, to the type of voter who is paying attention right now, it won’t matter much. As Ms. Bachmann proved, momentum from straw polls can be elusive.

How Rep. Paul was able to win the recent straw poll is a matter for electoral experts to recount, for Paul’s opponents to study, and for Paul and his campaign to celebrate.

Interestingly, Herman Cain scored another victory in another straw poll on the same day as Paul. Unlike the Texas congressman, Cain’s fortunes seem to be consistent and on the rise.

Meanwhile, more established candidates like Romney and Perry have taken a hit, to varying degrees, commensurate with Cain’s rise. And in Washington, the Values Voters all but rebuked the two governors.

Paul and Cain have demonstrated the most obvious fact that so many want to ignore: that the nomination process is exactly that. And a hard one to boot. The field has been in flux for some time, with voter allegiances, momentum, and fortunes rising and falling regularly. Conservative voters ought to be ecstatic about it.

So the GOP will continue to hammer it out. For many Republicans, that’s a good thing. A sizeable chunk of the conservative base was upset in 2008 when their party nominated John McCain. They don’t want to make the same mistake in an election that seems to be theirs for the taking.

Publicly, Democrats will laugh. Their joviality will be feigned, though. They are scared to death– of Romney, Perry, Paul, and Cain. If Huntsman, Santorum, or Gingrich made their own surges, Democrats would be scared of them too.

The spin from the Left is that the Republican field is a joke, that there is angst among the base, and the eventual nominee will be a lightweight. Their proof is that no clear frontrunner has emerged.

There’s simply no historical pattern that can tie an eclectic field to disappointing general election results.

Remember Howard Dean, Dick Gephardt, and John Edwards, and John Kerry? Those were the four leaders in polls at this point in the election cycle during the first Bush term. Gephardt led the pack. And in a previous election, Bill Clinton didn’t even announce until October, 1991. At the time of his entrance, the democratic field was lackluster, to say the least.

The truth is, almost every field seems lackluster until a nominee is chosen. From a Republican vantage point, a clear frontrunner at this stage would feel like a set up. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

So while they mock in public, the dems worry in private. Their presumptive nominee can’t seem to get his approval ratings out of the low 40s. They’re heading toward the 30s. That while the Republicans are debating who should replace him. The eventual GOP nominee will soon enough be able to focus like a laser on why he does not deserve four more years.

When that happens, and Obama must shift fire from away from his favorite straw men, he is certain to lose further support. For all the mainstream media waling about a too-conservative field that is outside the American mainstream, the president is lurching even further to the left, mitigating any such symmetrical move by Republicans competing for his job. And as he does it, he is losing support of independents as well as his core constituencies.

For now, then, Ron Paul and Herman Cain can celebrate, the other candidates can adjust, and the president can think about how he wants to spend the final 15 months of his presidency.

Because in every straw poll this year, the president has been the loser.


Learn more about the author at Rich-Stowell.com

Rich is a teacher and a soldier. He is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic TrainingTunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative, which you can follow on Facebook.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Rich Stowell

Rich Stowell has written about politics and travel for the Washington Times Communities since 2011. He is a soldier in the Utah National Guard and a fellow at the Center for Communication and Community at the University of Utah. Rich is the author of "Nine Weeks: A Teacher's Education in Army Basic Training"and continues to blog about military issues at “My Public Affairs.”

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