Paul's Straw Poll Wins Are Practice for Iowa

Written by Chris Ladd on Monday October 10, 2011

One of the minor stories to come out of this year’s Values Voters Summit is Ron Paul’s sizeable victory in the forum’s straw poll.  The Paul organization is developing some expertise at the art of straw poll hijacking.  They turned out their supporters in significant numbers by committing money and organization as they’ve done elsewhere.

This result inspires two questions.  First, why does the Paul campaign keep putting resources into these polls?  And second, could Paul potentially have produced a much more interesting showing if he hadn’t rigged it?

One possible answer to the first question is: Iowa.

Learning to consistently jack up straw polls is good practice for the Iowa Caucus and Paul is putting himself in fine position to compete there.  The presumed Iowa favorites, Bachmann and Perry, are both staggering under the weight of their own mistakes.  The Hermanator can be expected to join them soon enough (“Mr. Cain, tell us again what you think about Muslims and the unemployed”).  Romney is focusing his energy on New Hampshire.

The field is opening for Paul to steal the spotlight in a way that could actually produce some delegates.  Iowa is all about getting committed, qualified people to show up in numbers and perform as directed.  His decision to consistently spend energy manipulating symbolic votes makes some sense if you see it as a rehearsal for the real deal.

Did Paul’s manipulation obscure an otherwise noteworthy show of support?  It appears that it didn’t.  If Tony Perkins’ accounting is correct, Paul’s team astro-turfed in about 600 people just for the balloting.  A total of 1983 people voted.  If you disregard those 600 votes then Paul finished 5th behind Perry and Bachmann.  That’s about where you’d expect him to finish with a group of hard-core evangelical voters.

Can Ron Paul convert straw poll acumen into Iowa delegates?  Is he using these polls to polish his organization for the caucuses?  Maybe that’s reading too much cleverness into his efforts.  Maybe he’s less ‘crazy like a fox’ than just, well…you know.