Break out the bubbly, because Michele Bachmann beat the pack in the latest Ames Straw Poll in Iowa! You may be as surprised as I am that for once Ron Paul didn’t win a straw poll amongst conservatives. You might also be surprised to hear that it really doesn’t matter. That’s right! A straw poll is about as meaningless as an Obama Press Conference.
The problem with straw polls is the very nature of a straw poll; that it’s basically the opinion of a group of like minded people at any given time. You can’t ask people at a cake convention which deserts they prefer more because the answer is most likely going to be cake, and you can easily apply this same principle to a straw poll taken at any political gathering or conference. In Ames case, the most popular conservative will win hands down, and Bachmann has taken said cake.
You’ll recall that the CPAC 2011 straw poll had Ron Paul out ahead of the pack with 30% of the vote and Romney at 23%. You’ll also recall that at that time Michelle Bachmann only had a measly 4%, and while that’s all well and good, the outcome of these straw polls will have next to no effect in the coming elections. They never do.
Ron Paul’s popularity for one stemmed from the fact that he was a stark contrast to our current sitting “Whiner in Chief.” He’s heavily principled in Conservatism and a die hard constitutionalist, and to many in the conservative movement this is a fresh breath of much needed, red blooded, American air. The main problem Ron is seeing now is that he’s getting “out-conservatived” by the congresswoman who is riding on the “mama grizzly” wave that Palin had created. She’s able to stand on a record that she freely touts to any camera that focuses on her and it’s served her very well in conservative circles. She’s also the poster child for a strong woman; motherly yet not afraid to get down to business.
So what does this mean for her in the coming elections where she is slated to run? Probably nothing, if we take the past as an example.
2007 CPAC straw polls had Romney in a dominating 1st place. In fact, Romney won the CPAC straw poll 3 years in a row. He was the man to beat in the primaries…and John McCain did. Even the most famous American Conservative, Reagan was trounced by George H.W. Bush in the 79’ Ames straw polls and we all know how that ended up. As you can see, the straw polls aren’t the best predictors because they don’t tell the whole story.
For instance, while Bachmann is making some serious headway in the conservative movement she has recently had a new obstacle placed in her path to the top in the form of Texas Governor Rick Perry, who was nothing but a write in at Ames this year. As big a player as Bachmann has become, Perry is the more widely supported across the political board and will most likely be the candidate who wins the primary. Not only is Perry liked amongst a vast array of Conservatives, he’s popular amongst independents and establishment types. No conservative straw poll could tell you that.
Everyone’s favorite Congresswoman can stand on her stellar voting record and squeaky clean personal history, but the one thing she can’t say is “I won a Conservative straw poll once” then ride that like its the last bat out of hell. Her predecessors certainly didn’t, and it’s not wise for her supporters to do it either. Winning a straw poll really only means that harder work now has to be done to put the ideas that candidate into motion, and doing that means getting them into a position where those ideas can take effect, and that’s where Bachmann and her supporters are really going to have their work cut out for them.
Bachmann has a long way to go if she wants the presidency which means she’ll have to go through Perry to get it, and while Bachmann’s record is behind her, Perry has a lot of experience, a very well run state, and both the support of the tea party and the establishment behind his. Perry is a political Goliath and no straw poll can give you a good read on the size of any one candidate because it just doesn’t factor in every aspect with the exception of one; what conservatives favor today, and conservatives favor Bachmann…for now.