At the California Republican Convention in Los Angeles this weekend, Congressman Ron Paul was a runaway victor in the Straw Poll with 45% of the vote. Governor Rick Perry, Paul’s fellow Texan, was second with 29%. Thursday, the Field Poll indicated that Mitt Romney was the choice of California Republicans with 28% of the vote ahead of Perry’s 20%.
In searching for any meaning beyond the fact that straw polls are fun and give convention delegates something to participate in, is there any message here beyond throwing a straw into the air to see which way the political wind is blowing?
Many will point out that campaigns could pay for and register supporters for a straw poll, which permits them to vote and grab a headline. That’s what happened in Los Angeles with the Ron Paul campaign registering a lot of supporters. Others might suggest that the activists that attend party conventions don’t represent the rank and file members of the registered Republican voters.
Activists are the heart of any party. But are activists leading the party in the direction that the non-active registered Republican will follow? It’s an important question for a party that is struggling to stay relevant in an increasingly blue state. Democrats could conceivably capture the magic two-thirds vote plateau so that they may freely press their will with legislative action.
The question was reinforced over the party’s platform battle. Is the platform designed to please activists or a broader array of Republicans and independents?
A more moderate platform than the 2008 version was introduced at the convention by a drafting committee and caused much heated discussion before it was derailed temporarily in committee. The vote was close: 60-55. The battle on the platform is not over. The platform will be finalized next year.
Supporters of the change said they were crafting a document that could appeal to a larger portion of the California electorate in attempt to reverse the fortunes of state Republicans. Opponents claimed the old version with its detailed explanations of issues, preserved conservative values. Read more on the platform fight in this AP story.
As pointed out in the article, “The proposed changes came at a time when Washington conservatives have displayed new clout on Capitol Hill, and the push toward the center appears out of step with leading Republican presidential candidates…”
Yet, the same was not the case with California, where the state Republican Party did not add to the strength in Congress in the last election and was routed in statewide elections. The story about the national mood favoring Republicans and the realities of Republican struggles in the Golden State will keep the debate over the platform hot.
Meanwhile, the results of the Straw Poll will soon be forgotten and little value is put into them. William Safire noted in his Political Dictionary at the end of the entry on Straw Poll, “When the poll shows a candidate behind, his supporters say with O. Henry in a 1913 story: “A straw vote only shows which way the hot air blows.”