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Aug 14, 2011

Ames Straw Poll, an outside view.

One of the curiosities of the US political system is the phenomenon of the ‘straw poll’. As an outsider looking in, these seem to be mainly done by the GOP, and normally won by Ron Paul, after which it is customary for commentators to rage about the Paul machine, launch accusations of manipulation, and wonder about the relevance of having them, before moving to the next. Go figure.

It appears that to do well in one of these the candidate has to be present and make a considerable effort to get out the vote, something Paul excels at owing to an energized core of enthusiastic young fans. This in itself is somewhat unusual; under normal circumstances a bloke of 75 who talks about the gold standard, economic management, etc would be dismissed as an ‘old white guy’ but the libertarian aspect is compelling.

It is difficult to draw any real conclusions from this poll, especially this time, for a number of reasons. These are the early stages of the campaign and there is still speculation as to whether everybody is in yet. Rick Perry’s entry at the same time as the poll indicates they are not. Mitt Romney, who is the frontrunner in current polling elected not to take part, which makes it an exercise in popularity of the others.

The winners were: Bachmann (28.5%), Ron Paul (27.65), Pawlenty (13.6%) Santorum (9.8%), Cain (8.6%), followed by Romney, Perry, and the also-rans.

It is probably significant, as a couple of commentators have mentioned, that the big loser is the party establishment. Bachmann, the religious right candidate and Paul, the liberty candidate basically tied while the nearest establishment man came a distant third, with less than half Paul’s vote.

As both of the frontrunners are Tea Party favorites, and between them they pulled over 56% of the vote, watch for the establishment element scrambling to find reasons for this to be irrelevant.

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