Second thoughts on that straw poll at the state convention

First off, as a member of the Young Republicans, I was somewhat excited at the prospects of a straw poll.  It can have positive results for the organization sponsoring it.  However, it is a gimmick plain and simple that is used widely to build enthusiasm in the political process. 

In 1996, Phil Gramm (who I supported whole heartedly) won just about every straw poll that was conducted leading up to the primaries.  However, for those of you who do not remember, Gramm was out of the race fairly quickly (very unfortunate as he would have been an excellent President). 

At the GOP State Convention, Fred Thompson won the straw poll.  The group of draft supporters worked that straw poll hard and are to be congratulated for their efforts.  Many people, including many of our state’s politicians signed on to support Thompson and hopefully draft him into this race.  The boomlet of Fred Thompson reminds me of the boomlet of Phil Gramm. 

The only reason I can gather from some of these draft Thompson supporters is that he’s an actor, he can communicate, and he’s a conservative.  What’s interesting is that Thompson and McCain’s voting records are nearly carbon copy of one another.  You couldn’t slide a sheet of paper between the two, the difference are that thin. 

In all honesty, the political process would be better without political games and gimmicks like straw polls. 


  1. drjay says:

    i generally agree w/ your assessment about straw polls–but wonder if this year might be different, w/ the severe frontloading of the primary schedule, i do see a chance for straw polls–esp. the ones over the summer and later–like ames iowa, and alaska if they are still going to do the one right before iowa caucuses, becoming a sort of de facto iowa and nh as far as setting the field and giving momentum goes–just a thought.

  2. Bull Moose says:

    Winning a straw poll is a race of winning the party activist vote, not necessarily the dominant faction in voting the actual primaries. Straw polls are also not secret, secure, or tamper proof which opens the door to games to be played just for the sake of a headline.

  3. Holly says:

    Hm, I’m going to take a wait and see approach here. I think that when the party activists get this excited about a candidate, he has nowhere to go but up. Those people talk about the candidate to friends and family, and that’s where the grassroots campaigning really begins.

    For what it’s worth, does anyone know who won the straw polls in 2000?

  4. I Am Jacks Post says:

    Team McCain made a habit of bragging about each of his straw poll victories. Well, at least back when he was winning some of them.

  5. Bull Moose says:

    I’ve been involved from the get go and Team McCain has always treated as political theatre and nothing more.

    2000 who knows… The Bush thing is different from now…

    Already, Thompson isn’t living up to expectations and some of these who have signed onto the draft effort, don’t know anything about Thompson’s politics.

    Thompson is just like McCain so he is acceptable to me but some of these people who think he’s a so far right are going to be in for a surprise.

    We have a consistent conservative in the race and his name is John McCain.

    In 1996 — Phil Gramm won almost every straw poll there was. Last time I checked, he won 0 primaries.

  6. jsm says:

    Fred has a chance to make history here. People I know who are not at all politically active have told me they would love for Fred Thompson to run for president and would support him. I predict a tremendous groundswell when he announces he’s in. The interesting thing will be whether the wave builds steam or dies out. I expect the former. Either way, it will be an interesting process to watch.

  7. I Am Jacks Post says:

    In 1999, McCain skipped Iowa and dissed the impact of the Caucuses (which really is a glorified straw poll). But this time around he’s spending a fortune on a big Iowa operation.

  8. Mark Rountree says:

    Bull Moose, everyone agrees that straw polls are what they simply are: a snapshot at a moment, interesting at most but not alway fully accurate.

    I think Fred Thompson clearly had over 50% of the delegates, and he underpolled at 44. 🙂

    Realistically, all polls are simply a snapshot for that matter.

    You are courageous for your continuing support for McCain, but he has politically imploded everywhere and the campaign has taken on a certain “dead-man-walking” syndrome, to quote a friend.

    Thompson gives those of us in the Party who want a pretty consistent conservative voting record to match the communication abilities. The movement to Fred is happening mainly because his voting record matches his words on taxes. Many of us don’t like McCain’s opposition to Bush’s tax cuts at all, finding it quite petty.

  9. columbus06 says:

    Holly put it well. Will the Thompson hype still exist once he jumps in the race? He is certainly a great candidate on paper but we won’t know his true chances until he announces and gets out on the trail.

    I cannot help but remember the hype around wesley clark and his late entry in the 04 cycle, and look what happened with his candidacy. He was to be the democrat’s saviour that year.

  10. Brian from Ellijay says:

    Think back to last year Holly. (Dare I mention his name) Ralph Reed won every straw poll in the state. In Gwinnett, in Cobb, everywhere there was one. Victories in straw polls means absolutely nothing.

    If you want a real poll that was taken the same weekend including Fred and Newt, here you go.

    Strategic Vision May 18-20 among 600 likely voters
    Mitt Romney 20%
    Rudy Giuliani 18%
    John McCain 16%
    Fred Thompson 10%
    Tommy Thompson 7%
    Newt Gingrich 5%
    Mike Huckabee 3%

    Also, Giuliani is hinting he won’t compete in Iowa, so the Iowa caucus might end up really only being between Romney and McCain.

  11. Bull Moose says:

    I am not certain, but I think that Thompson also voted with McCain in opposition to those tax cuts. I’m telling you people, do your homework. They are very close personally and politically. You can’t bash McCain for one thing and then love Fred Thompson for the same reason you bash McCain. That’s hypocritical.

    Some Conservatives like to use campaign finance reform as a reason for disliking McCain. Fred Thompson voted for it and supported it. And secondly, who doesn’t think there is TOO MUCH MONEY awash in the political system? It was in very much need of reform and sunshine and McCain’s efforts on that front were successful.

    Another thing that these draft people are saying is that Thompson left Washington. They are hitting McCain because he was in the military and continued to serve his country in office. That’s a low blow. John McCain was talked into serving his country in public office by President and Mrs. Reagan. John McCain best represents the optimism of the Reagan legacy.

    McCain is anything but dead man walking. He’s leading in New Hampshire, Iowa, and South Carolina with no media effort at all. In contrast, Romney is pouring MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS to get the traction he’s getting in the polls. That is just temporary support. And if you look in the polls, the more the Thompson trial balloon floats, the lower his numbers go too.

    I respect Fred Thompson. I almost went to work for Fred Thompson in 1999. But, many of the people who are out there touting what a great hero Thompson will be don’t know the first thing about his policy positions, his personality, or his politics.

    And Doug, yeah, I think straw polls are crap and don’t know that I’d change my mind if McCain were winning any of them. They are just not reflective of anything really other than how much time can be wasted trying to garner some sort of silly political headline.

    John McCain is the consistent conservative in this race, is our best chance to win in November of 2008, and will make one heck of a President.

    I’ll tell you this too, any of our folks will make a better President than any of their folks. We need to remember that winning in 2008 is the goal and not get lost in the hyperbole of the primary sweeps!

  12. jsm says:

    Apples and oranges, Brian. Fred is not in the news for involvement in federal fraud cases. Also, this is a nationwide race which generates much more attention in the general public than Georgia’s LG race.

    I’d say Fred’s doing pretty well in Iowa for not yet having a campaign.

  13. Bull Moose says:

    Romney’s numbers are artificially high because he’s spending MILLIONS to inflate them.

    Thompson’s numbers start going down the first day he campaigns.

    Rudy has no where to go but down.

    McCain’s numbers have been ROCK SOLID consistently… hmm…

  14. jsm says:

    “McCain’s numbers have been ROCK SOLID consistently… hmm… ”

    …so they should stay around 15%, huh?

  15. Brian from Ellijay says:


    If you can raise it, spend it. Yes, there is an advantage to having money. It lets you do stuff like raise your name ID, your policy initiatives and message.

    How dare someone use money that they can raise to do those things, what- are they in this race to win?

  16. Doug Deal says:


    I also agree that polls are crap (not just straw polls, which are a whole different and more intense kind).

    I like to believe that politicians in our country once spent their time trying to convince people that their core values were correct, instead of modeling their “core” values on the results of a poll.

    With that said, the results reflect McCain’s problems. He gives a lot of reasons to hate him and few reasons to like him. His stands against free speech (make no mistake that what McCain-Feingold was), secure borders and general curmudgeoness does not make him an appealing person. He does do the right things on occasion; unfortunately the wrong things are more memorable.

  17. GabrielSterling says:


    Don’t lump FDT in with McCain on taxes. Thompson supported all of President Bush’s tax cuts.

    Just want to set the record straight.

  18. I Am Jacks Post says:

    Bull, you’re insane. Romney is way ahead in NH and ahead in IA. What poll(s) are you citing?

    Also, way to throw out this straw man:

    “They are hitting McCain because he was in the military and continued to serve his country in office. That’s a low blow. John McCain was talked into serving his country in public office by President and Mrs. Reagan. John McCain best represents the optimism of the Reagan legacy.”

    Who is hitting McCain for serving in the military? That’s absurd.

  19. Holly says:

    I should post here that I’m a Fred Thompson supporter. McCain is my second choice. Sure, throw eggs if you’d like. I choose him for his consistency, even when it’s bad consistency, for the very reason that I don’t have to wonder what he’ll stand for this week.

    I know straw polls are meaningless. I know that polling won’t matter until at least the fall. That’s why I said I have a wait and see attitude.

  20. Nate says:

    The political environment is very favorable to Fred Thompson for two reasons. First, the base is mad as hell right now with the establishment as is being seen with the immigration debate. I think it goes deeper than just the immigration issue too. The base sees the same old same old in the current candidates.

    Thompson’s appeal comes from being viewed as an outsider and the fact that he has not spent the last two years scheming to get the nom like most of the other candidates.

    Secondly, he has very low negatives within the party. The same is not true of Rudy, McCain and even Romney. The party needs a candidate that everyone can get behind. If Rudy gets the nom, you will see a third party candidate run. If McCain gets it the base will just stay home. Thompson is viewed favorably by conservatives, but can also run in Hollywood crowds and has been a player at the national area (see Justice Roberts nomination process). Thompson can unite all the wings of the party and can run in the general as an outsider to the same old same old.

  21. Bull Moose says:

    Some of the draft Thompson people have been taking thinly veiled shots at McCain’s service to his country. I heard it first hand.

    The immigration reform is our best shot at securing the border. Get your facts straight. How has campaign finance reform limited your speech? I want an example.

  22. I Am Jacks Post says:

    Hotline has this hot news item:

    McCain Loses South Carolina Political Director

  23. Nate says:

    Bull Moose, There is very good reason why the base is not going along with the Immigration reform. Remember the Reagan term, “trust but verify”? Well the time and time again the establishment has said just trust us, we know better than you little people. Remember the border fence? That was a joke. When they can PROVE, not just say that they will secure the border, then and only then will they have a prayer of getting the base to go along with the refrom.

  24. BrianDart says:

    I like McCain and alot of the issues he has stood for, i.e. pork spending. I don’t think McCain has a shot to win this thing. Our current crop of candidates are stuck. Mitt is moving up, but is having to spend millions to do it. Thompson is hovering around 10-12% without doing anything.

    Thompson is winner, and he has principals. If you don’t think he is going to run, then you are mistaken. He is hiring staff and conducting polls. Once he enters the race, he will be the man to beat. Thompson has a clear record of conservative values.

  25. Bull Moose says:

    Mr. Dart – McCain stands for those things – cutting spending, cleaning up corruption from our government, and getting our government in line to reflect our values.

    You are buying the media spin. They want us to be in chaos. That just helps the Democrats.

    Thompson is hardly doing nothing. He’s blogging, he’s making speeches, he’s doing what pre-candidates do. He’s not sitting back on his porch and resting and don’t you fool people by suggesting that.

    Thompson and McCain’s principles are in line with one another. Both have a clear record of conservative values and are so similar on positions. It’s a vendication of the issues that McCain espouses that another candidate seems to want to echo those. I predict that even with Thompson in this race you will see this be a competitive race but that McCain will ultimately prevail.

  26. Doug Deal says:


    It is hilarious that you talk about “buying the media spin” with your repetitive posting of McCain campaign material dressed up as your own opinion.

    McCain has once again reminded people why he lost to George W Bush 8 years ago.

  27. Mark Rountree says:

    Bull Moose,

    You write: “Both have a clear record of conservative values and are so similar on positions.”

    No, this is not true. Thompson voted to support the Bush tax cuts, McCain voted against. McCain has gone out of his way to offend the GOP base, Thompson has not.

    McCain is living on the fumes of the Straight Talk Express. That bus ran out of gas years ago.

    Thompson supporters are standing up for many good reasons, and you know it.

    On a separate issue: I think the Peach should give out awards for best posting name. I’ll nominate you for that!

  28. kendrial says:

    Bull, You are over looking one very important point. People don’t like Mcain. I don’t know why but, they don’t. You keep saying that Mcain and Fred vote the same and have the same conservative values but, one thing is different pleople like Fred.

  29. drjay says:

    you hit the nail on the head kendrial–that really is what it boils down to–isn’t it–for whatever reason lots of people don’t like mccain–whether its his disposition or the way bush “branded him” in 2000 or whatever–it seems like most of the run of the mill gop activists just don’t like him–i can’t explain–but i have certainly observed it…

  30. JasonW says:

    Ideal wise Fred Thompson maybe like John McCain, but personality wise Fred’s in a league of his own. Thats the difference between Fred and John. If Fred’s voting record is almost identical to that of McCain and McCain is the “Consistent Conservative” then what part of Fred Thompson would Conservatives have a problem with?

    Straw Polls are fun. If your candidate loses then boo hoo. I don’t think anybody really takes straw polls too seriously. They are fun, and can gauge grassroots support, which is vital to a campaign.

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