SRLC Straw Poll...What does it mean?
Mitt Romney was the winner at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) straw poll last weekend. A little surprising seeing as though he wasn’t even there. Sarah Palin, who was the headliner, packed the room with adoring fans but didn’t even grab second place. Instead she tied for third with Newt Gingrich. Ron Paul was the proud second place winner thanks to his strong, enthusiastic following.
What does all this mean? Does it give us a glimpse into the 2012 Republican Presidential Primary? Does Sarah Palin’s popularity take a back seat at the ballot box? Will Romney be our nominee? Maybe. The Politico suggested perhaps Palin fans are more practical when it come to their presidential picks (http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0410/35617.html). But more importantly, it means when you are running for office or running a campaign, you better be organized to win straw polls where you play. For the SRLC, Ron Paul’s group bought hundreds of tickets for his supporters and “Evangelicals for Mitt” also purchased tickets and encouraged Romney supporters to attend and, more importantly, vote. Palin and Gingrich did not seem to have any formal organization working the grassroots for them.
Straw polls can be a real thorn in the side of campaigns. Most will tell you they don’t care, that the results don’t matter. But the second they win one, they are quick to tout that win and make the case from it as to why they are gaining momentum. Winning straw polls should be as much a part of your grassroots campaign strategy as knocking on doors and making phone calls. It’s also a great test of the strength of your organization. Know when and where the critical ones are being held, put them on your calendar and organize your supporters to turn out and vote!
Don’t believe they work? Ask any underdog who has worked the grassroots community hard to gain ground. Ask Marco Rubio. A year ago no one thought he had a chance at beating the campaign-pro Charlie Crist in the race for Florida’s US Senate seat. But Rubio was determined. He visited every county, spoke at every neighborhood bbq and played to win in every straw poll possible. Week after week the announcements on his straw poll success were announced. Crist downplayed them and Rubio continued to gain attention and popularity. Now, there have been many other factors contributing to the Rubio rise and Crist collapse but those straw poll wins were an important early momentum builder for Rubio.
So, before quickly writing off the next straw poll, give it some extra thought and consider whether the reward may outweigh the risk for your campaign.
If you had attended the SRLC, who would your pick for 2012 have been? Romney, Paul, Palin, Gingrich, someone else?