On Friday night, Texas Congressman Ron Paul won the Idaho Republican Party’s first-ever straw poll, beating out Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and others.
While many observers might see this vote as shocking, my belief is that it didn’t tell us something we didn’t already know.
It’s known across the country that Paul has a number of very dedicated supporters and straw poll attendees had to be just that to support their candidate. The Idaho GOP billed this as an attention-getting event for Idaho, but it also served to fill its own coffers. The party charged $30 for admittance. That’s quite a hefty fee to vote in a poll that has no real weight.
Yet more than 400 people did and Paul was the winner with 43 percent of the vote. Paul’s foll0wing has always been loyal and especially active, especially in north Idaho and the Boise area. Nationally, his supporters, who are well-versed in the new political art of net-roots support, flock to every poll ensuring his victory. So, it is little surprise Paul won the straw poll.
I also feel the poll did not endear itself to representing the interests of many Idaho’s Republicans because of its location. Many Republicans, especially eastern Idaho unable or unwilling to attend the poll, may have a stronger preference for Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum based on religious values or family traditions. Due to the location of the vote being in one spot these voters had no representation in the vote.
Despite this, according to the Idaho Press-Tribune, GOP executive direct0r Jonathon Parker says the vote does represent the preferences of Idaho Republicans (about 400 of them at least) and the goal of the vote was to get national candidates to come to Idaho and woo voters. Considering the ruby red state of Idaho’s Republican Party, it is unlikely many candidates will come here to court voters. Even though the Idaho GOP has moved its presidential nominating contest to March 6th – also known as Super Tuesday – and turned it into a closed-caucus system in the hopes of increasing turnout and again getting candidates to come to the state, it is unlikely to occur.
What is easy to glean out of the results is that Ron Paul’s support is as strong as ever in Idaho, especially Boise and north Idaho. Yet Mitt Romney has a strong presence in the state due to his religious and regional appeal to voters. Candidates like Gingrich, Perry and Santorum are unlikely to get many delegates out of Idaho on March 6, assuming they are still in the race at that point.
The Idaho Statesman and the Idaho Press-Tribune both fielded headlines making it sound as if the Idaho GOP and Idaho Republicans did not expect this result. Frankly, as an Idaho Republican I would have been surprised if Paul had not won. Paul has a strong grass-roots presence in the west and his plan to stay in the race is to win delegates in states that are not winner-take all (like Idaho with 32 delegates). It may not be a winning strategy but it will likely ensure he can get enough delegates nationally to be noticed at the convention.
In short, the Idaho GOP straw poll result tells us exactly what we already knew.