Monday, April 12, 2010

Postmortem on SRLC

This past Friday and Saturday, the Southern Republican Leadership Conference (SRLC) was held in New Orleans. During that event, a straw poll was open to gauge support for various potential candidates in 2012 for the Republican nomination. A poll by Wilson Research Strategies (who did some initial polling for the Peter Schiff campaign months ago)asked these two questions of credentialed delegates:

If the primary election for president were held today, for whom would you vote? Please check the box by the candidate of your choice.

Newt Gingrich 18%
Mike Huckabee 4%
Gary Johnson 1%
Sarah Palin 18%
Ron Paul 24% (438 votes)
Tim Pawlenty 3%
Mike Pence 3%
Mitt Romney 24% (439 votes)
Rick Santorum 2%

2. Who would be your second choice in the Republican Primary Election for president?

Newt Gingrich 19%
Mike Huckabee 10%
Gary Johnson 6%
Sarah Palin 18%
Ron Paul 5%
Tim Pawlenty 6%
Mike Pence 8%
Mitt Romney 13%
Rick Santorum 7%

I have bolded the two candidates of interest for this blog. First, Ron Paul.

Ron Paul's Campaign for Liberty made an effort to win this event, securing 600 tickets to SRLC that were eventually free to those who wished to attend. A group affiliated with Mitt Romney (who declined to name a fundraising source, which I am sure is close to the multimillionaire) similarly secured 200 tickets and copies of Romney's book for every delegate. Thus, a clash of titans was set.

Notice the close results on the first pick for president between Romeny and Paul, a statistical tie. This essentially serves as a gauge of activist potential- both Romney and Paul have sophisticated organizations to take them into the presidential race.

But more importantly for Paul, check out his weak showing for second picks. In fact, for 2nd place pick, Dr. Paul had the LOWEST support with 5%. What this basically means is that Ron Paul has an independent constituency in the Republican Party- its overlap doesn't extend as far with other Republicans. Looking strategically, Ron Paul needs to have a crowded race with more establishment Republicans splitting votes. Otherwise, a Palin, Gingrich, or Romney when one of them dropped out could consolidate a massive lead over the eccentric Paul. The only hope for a Ron Paul presidential bid is to come out in 2012 with strong showings in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina. The deeper in the race he gets, the harder time he will have with less opposition. Kinda ironic, huh?

Gary Johnson, the former governor of New Mexico, meanwhile has much more anemic numbers. He pulled 1%, or 3 votes, in the 1st place preferential poll. However, his 2nd place presidential preference poll shows him with 6% support. This probably confirms the obvious: Gary Johnson can compete when he gets the Ron Paul supporters, who more than likely threw Johnson many 2nd place votes.

This also teaches a key lesson though for 2012: Johnson and Paul cannot be both running by the time we get to Iowa. Paul has to have enough support to be competitive later on, and Johnson cannot survive without a base of support that the Paulistas can provide.

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