Tag Archives: Iowa Straw Poll

A Lot of Noes

June 16, 2015 — We witnessed a great many political “noes” this weekend, as Iowa Republicans voted to do away with their famous August straw poll event, and two potential major Senate candidates announced they would not run next year.

President

The Iowa Republican Party began the straw poll event in August of 1979, as a way to showcase their first-in-the nation caucus contest. Over the years, the event attracted major media attention and was generally viewed as the first official contest of the respective presidential campaign cycle. In the most recent years, it became the Iowa GOP’s top fundraising event for their entire election season. But, over this past weekend, the Iowa Republican Party Executive Committee voted 17-0 to end the famous informal poll.

Several reasons exist for the event’s elimination, which previously drew thousands to Iowa State University in Ames, the traditional event venue. First, the straw poll was never a good predictor as to who would win the Caucus event. For example, then-Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) placed first in the 2011 straw poll, which proved to be the high point of her campaign. Basically she was not heard from in a serious way after that. In fact, of the six straw poll events, only once did the outright August vote correctly foretell the actual Caucus winner (George W. Bush in 2000).
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Gov. Perry’s “Exciting Future Plans”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) just emailed political supporters pledging to announce his “exciting future plans” at a Monday San Antonio event. Normally, when a politician schedules an official speech that will either be a formal campaign kick-off or retirement statement, everyone knows what will be said. Not in this case. One only needs to look back to 2009, when the governor surprisingly announced for another term even though everyone “knew” that he would step down.

Gov. Perry has kept his own counsel about his “exciting future plans,” and there is diverse speculation surrounding what he will do. Many who are close to the governor, who is Texas’ longest-serving chief executive, believe that he has already decided to run for president again in 2016. Assuming this line of thought is true, what is his best move as it pertains to either keeping or relinquishing his current office?

If he is to run for president, he needs to re-establish political credibility. He does that by convincingly winning another re-election.

You’ll remember that he began the 2012 campaign in exalted fashion, entering the race with a first-place polling standing. His August 2011 presidential campaign announcement speech from South Carolina on the day of the Iowa Straw Poll was very well received and he appeared to lay legitimate claim to front-runner status. Few knew, however, that this day marked his campaign’s apex. We all remember his disastrous debate performance when the governor couldn’t recall one of the three federal agencies that he was planning to eliminate should he win the presidency. After this glaring error he tumbled down the polling charts with lightning speed and soon  Continue reading >

Iowa Winners and Losers

Two clear winners emerged from the Iowa Caucuses last night – former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. Both men earned 25 percent of the vote, give or take a hundredth of a point when all of the votes are officially tabulated, which means they fought to a virtual draw. The latest tally after last night still shows Romney leading by a scant eight votes of the just over 60,000 votes cast between the two of them.

There had always been speculation about whether Mr. Santorum would get the same surge that every other candidate had received at some point during the Iowa election cycle. Attempting to project ahead for the long term, since 49 other states still must cast their votes, it’s difficult to see another candidate besides Romney having the staying power to claim the nomination throughout the grueling 50-state nomination process.

But the candidates who didn’t perform well in Iowa might be the bigger short-term story. After he spent what will likely add up to be more than $500 per vote cast for him when the financial accounting becomes final, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has returned to Austin to consider whether he should continue his campaign. Fellow Texan Ron Paul also under-performed, after many polls and predictions suggested that he would win the Iowa Caucuses. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) just barely cracked 6,000 votes. During the Iowa Straw Poll, which she won back in August, her grand total was 4,823. Such little growth in the months between the Straw Poll and the full Caucus vote suggested that her campaign was doomed. And it ended today when Mrs. Bachmann announced that she was suspending her candidacy.

Does the Santorum performance now allow him to coalesce the more conservative Republican voters, attracting them from Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (whose precipitous drop in the polls translated to a similar performance when actual votes were cast), and Bachmann? Will it propel him into a one-on-one race with Mr. Romney? It has always been the conventional wisdom that if a candidate could isolate Romney, that individual would win.

Santorum is moving on to New Hampshire with the considerable momentum from Iowa behind him. And although Romney enjoys big leads in the Granite State in polling, if Santorum can place a clear second, it might be enough to secure the mantel as Romney’s top challenger. South Carolina would then become hugely important. If Santorum can upend Romney there, his national campaign could quickly become the real deal. Republicans are returning to a more traditional primary and caucus schedule (meaning the majority of the states are voting after Super Tuesday – March 6 this year), which could favor the late breaking candidate and not Romney, who has been in the top tier since the beginning.

If the eight-vote statewide Iowa margin stands, it will of course be the closest primary or caucus victory in presidential campaign history. Romney’s unofficial total of 30,015 votes is eerily similar to the total he received in 2008, when he lost to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. In that year, Mr. Romney accumulated 29,949, only 66 fewer votes than his performance last night.

Turnout also was similar to 2008. That year, 118,696 people participated in the Iowa Caucus meetings. Last night, the total was 122,255.

It was clear that the predictions of many Democrat and Independent voters would come to the Caucuses in order to re-register Republican and vote for Ron Paul did not materialize. Even in the key college counties of Johnson (University of Iowa) and Story (Iowa State University), Paul failed to place first. Mr. Romney carried both places, albeit only by 10 votes in Story, however.

The only candidate other than Santorum, Romney, and Paul to carry any county was Perry. He won in both Taylor and Union Counties, two southern Iowa entities that border each other.

Once again, it has been proved that a candidate who travels the state and works in a grassroots, one-on-one fashion can score big in the Iowa Caucuses. Santorum understood that and adopted this strategy well. Moving to the larger states like Florida and California, where such campaigning is virtually impossible, will prove more daunting.

Santorum is clearly the big story coming out of Iowa. But what is also clear is that this race has a long way to go.

Candidate Debates Do Matter

The latest Republican presidential debate was held last night in Las Vegas and, at least among the candidates themselves, it appears that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are still the top two contenders. They, with their podiums next to each other on center stage, dominated the evening’s responses and personal confrontations.

Even though retired businessman Herman Cain is surprisingly atop many current state polls, he appeared to retreat somewhat into the background of this forum as the candidates actively engaged each other more so than in previous debates. CNN host and debate moderator Anderson Cooper allowed the candidates more freedom in engaging their opponents and provided adequate time to answer the questions, leading to what became a lively evening.

Perry, coming into this debate with his back against the wall after performing poorly in two previous sessions, came on strong, particularly against Romney, over several issues. He was much more articulate and confrontational than in the past, and appeared to have a greater presence on stage. Whether this translates into positive momentum before the GOP primary voting public is yet to be determined.

Polls have already shown major ebbs and flows for Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-MN-6), Perry, and Cain throughout the course of the fledging campaign. Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll in August and then immediately began tumbling downward, landing solidly in the single-digit second tier.

Cain has experienced the opposite course. Largely due to his debate performances, he has gained considerable strength and risen to the top echelon. How long he will stay there is anyone’s guess.

Gov. Perry had a meteoric rise as soon as he entered the race, but fell quickly back after two sub-standard debate performances and a lack of taking any overt action to reverse his slide.

Therefore, the statistical data as reflected in state and national political polls, makes It apparent that the eight debates, only one of which appeared on a broadcast network, are nonetheless having a clear effect upon the early stages of this race.

So far, there is only one candidate who has appeared to rebound after falling into oblivion. And, it is only through his superior debate performances to which his rise can be traced, since the public forums are the semblance of his campaign. This man is former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Driven to the 3 percent range nationally after a disastrous start that saw most of his top campaign staff bolting to the Perry campaign, Gingrich is now coming back to the low double-digit mark — right around where he started. It is doubtful, however, he will ever leap back into serious contention because of a lack of a campaign organization and a fundraising machine that is badly in need of repair (Gingrich has only $353,000 cash on hand as of the latest Sept. 30, 2011 campaign financial disclosure report). In the latest Public Policy Polling national survey (Oct. 7-10) the former Speaker has climbed into third place, behind Cain and Romney, with a surprising 15 percent of the Republican primary vote.

Can Perry follow a similar course to that of Gingrich? He needs to, and his challenge last night was to launch himself on such a trajectory.

The polls have told us two things. First, Mr. Romney, despite always placing near the top in every survey, has a ceiling in the low 20s that he can’t seem to crash through. This makes him vulnerable to a candidate who can break out of the pack and contest him in a one-on-one battle. Of all the candidates, Perry is still the only one who has the financial resources to land in such a position, particularly if he successfully portrays himself as the conservative alternative to the more moderate Romney.

The second finding is that debate performances can tangibly send a candidate spiraling — either up or down, as Gingrich, Perry, and Cain have all proven. With the Iowa Caucuses now set for Jan. 3, 2012, and New Hampshire possibly moving to December, Phase I of the election cycle has officially drawn to a close. Now, they begin playing for keeps.

Herman Cain’s Upset Win in Florida Straw Poll

Retired businessman Herman Cain scored a major upset victory at the Presidency 5 Florida straw poll event on Saturday, easily outpacing the entire Republican field of presidential candidates in an exclusive vote of Florida Republican State Central Committee members. Mr. Cain scored 37.1 percent of the 2,657 ballots cast, or 985 actual votes.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry was a distant second at 15.4 percent (409 votes); former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney placed third, attracting 14.0 percent support (372 votes); former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum was next, recording 10.9 percent (290 votes); and Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX-14) was the final candidate to land in the double-digit percentile (10.4 percent; 277 votes). Bringing up the rear were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (8.4 percent; 223 votes), former Obama US Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman (2.3% percent 61 votes), and finishing a surprising last was Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6), the Iowa Straw Poll winner, who registered a paltry 1.5 percent at Presidency 5, or just 40 votes.

Several points are worth mentioning about these results. First, unlike the Iowa Straw Poll, which was open to all registered Republican voters, the Florida vote was limited only to official party central committee members. These individuals are either elected or appointed to serve in party positions in their counties, thus giving them membership and voting privileges at statewide conventions. While the Iowa vote was a test of the general Republican voting public, Presidency 5 was a measure of strength within the official state GOP establishment. The fact that Mr. Cain would score an impressive win is yet one more piece of evidence that the Republican insiders are still looking for a candidate upon whom to rally behind.

Second, almost as big a surprise as Cain’s strong Florida performance, was Rep. Bachmann finishing dead last. Though certainly not a favorite of the party establishment – in fact, some of her appeal is that she energizes non-traditional conservatives to vote in the Republican primaries and general elections – attracting only the support of 40 people is another argument for the view that her flailing campaign may have crested when she won the Iowa Straw Poll in August. Certainly the fact that Ms. Bachmann made no attempt to garner support for Presidency 5 is a large part of the reason she did so poorly, but such is not the total cause. Most of the other candidates did not put forth a top effort either.

Third, the performance of perceived front-runners Perry and Romney is certainly a disappointment for both, but particularly the former. Here is where the Texas governor’s poor performance in the last televised debate may have had an impact. Party insiders, such as the group who participated in the this past weekend’s vote, would have been more likely to view or even attend the debate, thus his lackluster showing would have more greatly affected this particular straw poll event than an at-large primary vote.

Perry did invest time and resources into the Florida vote, which bodes even more poorly for his showing and campaign organization. During the Iowa Straw Poll, a 527 entity independent of the Perry campaign, called Americans for Rick Perry, implemented a write-in strategy that captured a record number of votes. In Florida, this group was not present.

For his part, Mr. Romney did not run an organized effort, which is consistent with his approach to all straw poll events. Therefore, both he and Perry badly under-performed in Presidency 5 based on their status atop the Florida Republican polls.

As has been the case since the very beginning of this GOP nomination campaign, the race continues to be a wide open battle. This is likely to continue until actual votes begin to be cast early next year at the Iowa Caucus and in the early primary states.