Normally I’d greet the news that Ron Paul had won the Republican Leadership Conference straw poll with a yawn and an eye roll… You might say his victory was a forgone conclusion, I can’t remember the last time he didn’t win a CPAC or RLC straw poll. The real shocker here is Jon Huntsman’s second place finish, where the hell did that come from?
Politico’s Jonathan Martain offers one possibility:
The more notable result was Huntsman’s second place. The former ambassador was slated to speak to the confab, but backed out, citing a cold. That the little-known and pragmatic Huntsman would finish between Paul and Bachmann — each of whom enjoy a passionate following among more ideological activists — is surprising.
Rumors circulated here that Huntsman campaign had paid for supporters to attend the conference and a spokesman for the candidate, Tim MIller, didn’t deny that they had.
“Not commenting on internal strategy,” said Miller, adding: “The result demonstrates that young conservatives are responding to his record of success in Utah, willingness to take the debt problem seriously, and foreign policy message,”
Short of any real proof — All we have right now are rumors, I’m not ready to endorse Mr. Martain’s claims, but this is being talked about and Mr. Miller’s non-denial denial is certainly suspicious.
Anyway, here are the results:
- Paul 612
- Huntsman 382
- Bachmann 191
- Cain 104
- Romney 74
- Gingrich 69
- Palin 41
- Santorum 30
- Pawlenty 18
- Johnson 10
- Roemer 9
- McCotter 2
As Greta Van Susteren notes they’re Interesting…not binding or even instructive… Franky, this early in the process the polls don’t mean much, once the field solidifies — there’s still one more unannounced candidates who could join the race, and the primary’s and/or caucus’ start we’ll have a clearer picture. Until then any of these polls should be taken with grain of salt (and a shot of tequila).
H/T: Hot Air.
Update (Tuesday, June 21, 2011): Politico’s Jonathan Martain who first raised questions about Jon Huntsman’s surprising second place finish in last weeks RLC straw pole has new information about how operatives boosted Huntsman at the Republican Leadership Conference:
So how did he snag so many votes?
Partly due to the effort of a New Orleans Republican named Bryan Wagner.
An influential former city councilor and big McCain backer, Wagner is close to former Rep. Joseph Cao.
In an interview, Wagner said he, Cao and New Orleans school board member Brett Bonin talked up Huntsman to their friends in the days leading up the gathering.
“We were very, very pleased with the outcome we got,” boasted Wagner.
But when pressed about who paid for the registration of the pro-Huntsman voters, Wagner grew defensive.
He flatly denied purchasing any tickets but wouldn’t say who did put up the money for the Huntsman voters.
Mr, Martain adds additional details in a second post:
But some Louisiana Republicans are unhappy because, as the email twice gets at, it wasn’t just Republicans who were brought in to vote for Huntsman.
Date: Wed, 15 Jun 2011 19:17:57 -0500
Subject: INSIDER INVITATION
To Team Bonin,
I have a very special invitation to all, regardless of party
affiliation. I am hosting a free insider’s look at the Republican
Southern Leadership Conference this Saturday.
Anyone who is interested will meet at Lakeview Harbor at 9:00 am, we
will board a free bus for the conference at 9:30 sharp, free tickets
to the conference are included, we will go to the conference, meet
with an insider from a presidential campaign, participate in
conference, participate in a straw poll, then head back to Lakeview
harbor for refreshments. There is no cost involved and it does not
matter what your party affiliation is. The whole thing should last
between two to three hours.
I have a limited number of invitations and it will be first come,
first served. Anyone who is interested should reply to this email
immediately with your name, cell number, email address, and
city/parish you are from.
Sent from Brett A. Bonin’s iPhone
Free bus, free tickets, free food. You get the picture.
Yes we do… Ambassador Huntsman can game a straw poll, but he can’t game his way to the nomination. Amb. Huntsman’s campaign operatives may have generated a little much needed buzz for their candidate, but shenanigans like this don’t translate into actual support… and judging by the polls Amb. Huntsman has little real support.