By Baker Owens –
Three different Georgia Republican districts have held straw polls recently. A week ago, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee won the 8th district straw poll at their annual fish fry. Former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, in office during Mike Huckabee’s time in Arkansas, was there with an endorsement for the Razorback and Huckabee won it with 23% of the vote. Ted Cruz coming in second at 17%.
In Floyd County, in a straw poll requiring a dollar contribution to the party, outsider candidate and former HP executive, Carly Fiorina came away with the win at 21%. Ben Carson, another outsider, came in second in that one with 17.5%. At the Oglethorpe County pancake supper, Ted Cruz pretty much walloped the competition with 29% of the vote and Donald Trump, reality tv star and real estate mogul, came in second with 13%.
As far as statewide polls go, a recent poll showed Donald Trump with 34% of Georgia GOP voters supporting him. Jeb Bush, despite some soft showings in the straw polls, comes in second with 12% of the vote and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker third with 10.4%. The discrepancy between these polls may illustrate some of the differences between straw polls and statewide polls.
Straw polls are usually conducted at party-related meetings full of attendees who identify as and volunteer for the Republican party. These voters don’t necessarily hold some of the animosity towards the party that many others may have. They are usually informed and active about what is going on in the party. They may be angry and, as illustrated by the recent special election in HD-80 and by some at the Georgia GOP convention earlier this year, want to take the party in a different direction, but they are not necessarily illustrative of the broader electorate that is taken into account in other polls.
Straw poll voters are however, more likely to get active in a campaign than a random someone just answering a landline phone who may be a primary voter. Part of the incumbency advantage that is so often talked about is the network of people from local party politics that a candidate can tap into to get the grassroots going, putting out signs, posting Facebook messages, making calls and other actions that are important to a winning campaign. Some presidential candidates have started to make these connections and local party members may already be supporting certain candidates.
Donald Trump is another story.
Recently, Chairman of InsiderAdvantage Matt Towery talked about Donald Trump’s populist popularity. Currently, according to Towery, Trump is running in the mid-30’s across Southern states. Towery thinks Trump will have the money (assuming he’s willing to spend some of his own) to counter some of the negative attacks that will be coming when the campaigns really start fighting for primary voters. Towery doesn’t think Trump is going anywhere. “He’s going to remain in this race, all the way to end,” Towery told Newsmax. Trump has yet to do any real campaigning in Georgia but he clearly has enough fans so that some of them must be from within the active Republican ranks. Whether or not he’ll be able to tap into the advantages of the straw poll voter will be another question as the Trump candidacy continues to unfurl.