Tea party favorite Cain garnered 232 (26%) votes to take first place, edging libertarian Ron Paul, the Texas congressman and perennial candidate, 229 votes (25.7%). Texas Gov. Rick Perry placed third with 180 votes (20%). Newt Gingrich, keynote speaker for the fry, came in fourth with 162 votes (18%). Mitt Romney was next with 51 votes (6%), followed by Michele Bachmann, 29 votes (3.3%). Three other candidates got eight votes combined.
The poll was billed in advance as “the first and largest statewide Republican presidential straw poll in the Peach State” by GOP chairman Sue Everhart of Cobb. But it surely missed the mark of her pre-fish fry prediction that the poll “could be one of the strongest early indicators of voter trends in Georgia.” For one thing, while about 1,100 Republicans attended the event according to the Associated Press, only 729 votes were cast. That’s a little strange.
Anyway, Cain has won a lot of straw polls including the Cobb GOP Independence Day vote in which he took a whopping 43 percent. But in the statewide Iowa poll two weeks ago Bachmann won 28 percent and Paul 27 percent with Cain far back at 8 percent. The bottom line: straw polls are very poor indicators of voter sentiment on a broad scale. It’s too easy for the supporters of one candidate or another to skew the results by turning out in larger numbers at straw poll events like the fish fry or the Iowa poll.
Meanwhile, in the world of real voter polls, Gallup’s latest survey of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents taken Aug. 17 to 21, showed 29 percent most likely to support Rick Perry , almost double his 18 percent a month earlier. Romney was second at 17 percent, then Ron Paul at 13 percent, Bachmann 10, and Cain with only 4 percent, down from 10 percent in June. Gingrich also had 4 percent, down from 12 percent in May.
The poll reflected the changing landscape after the second GOP candidate debate, the Iowa straw poll and Perry’s official announcement of his candidacy. The reality for Bachmann and Paul, Gallup observed, is that neither “appears to have gotten a big boost from the straw poll results” — not surprisingly.
Gallup found Perry strongly favored by conservative Republicans, older Republicans and Southern Republicans. He also had above average support from religious Republicans. However, Perry, “like Romney before him, rates as a weaker front-runner than those in prior GOP nomination contests,” Gallup said.
Two late entrants in previous campaigns, Republican Fred Thompson in 2008 and Democrat Wesley Clark in 2004, attracted a lot of attention “and ranked among the national leaders” (in the polls) when they got into their races, but Gallup noted, “both fared poorly in early primaries and soon after ended their candidacies.”
Rick Perry looks far more formidable — and he’s just begun to fight.