Straw polls and other unofficial polls can play an important role in helping voters project their candidate preferences, especially in the early days of campaigning. These polls are conducted by official Republican Party organizations, as well as sub-groups of sometimes narrowly-focused interest groups.
Here is a summary of recent polls winners during the 2011 Republican campaign season:
Mitt Romney – The former Massachusetts governor won the September Michigan straw poll capturing over 50 percent of the vote. Second place challenger Texas Gov. Rick Perry drew nearly 17 percent, New York Times reported. Romney’s ability to win straw polls has worried some Republicans – many fearing that he does not have wide enough appeal to conservative voters to beat President Barack Obama.
Herman Cain – The former business executive snatched a surprisingly large win in the September Florida straw poll, nabbing 37 percent of the vote, NRO reported. Cain’s victory was a full 20 percent points greater then second placer finisher Perry. The Florida straw poll victory propelled Cain from to a first-tier candidate in future debates. The Presidential 5 poll has a lengthy track record of picking the GOP nominee.
Cain also captured the top spot in the Western Republican Leadership Conference poll taken in October, beating Romney with 31 percent of the vote, according to American Thinker.
Rep. Ron Paul – The Texas congressman won a statewide straw poll by drawing 52 percent of the online and total votes cast, according to Associated Press. This was a large straw poll, with more then 3,600 people paying $5 to the Illinois Republican Party to cast their vote. As such, they are likely Republican voters in the next election. Romney came in second, although he placed first with in-person votes cast, drawing 35 percent. He also placed first in an Iowa National Federation of Republican Assemblies Presidential Straw Poll, drawing 82 percent of the vote according to CNN.
Paul also won the Western Alabama Republican Assembly poll, capturing the majority of the vote at an event that the New York Times reported was laced with Paul supporters.
Rep. Michele Bachmann – The Minnesota congresswoman won the first Iowa straw poll back in June, The Hill reported. Paul handedly defeated her in both subsequent Iowa straw polls that have been taken place since her initial win. Bachmann’s campaign has since failed to place in the top tier of any poll.
Dan McGinnis is a freelance writer, published author and former newspaper publisher. He has been a candidate, campaign manager and press secretary for state and local political campaigns for more than 30 years.