According to Real Clear Politics, Paul is averaging 8.2% in current polls. During the primary season in 2008, he mustered around 6.5%. Although a 1.7% increase might not sound like a whole lot, we should keep in mind that it is still early in the process. Heck, did the average American even know Ron Paul’s name, much less understand his principles, four years ago? After all, only during the primaries do most people actually take the time to learn anything about the candidates. Therefore, I think it is fairly safe to say that the Ron Paul campaign is gathering momentum.
In ten days, August 13th, American politics will focus its attention on the city of Ames, Iowa. Although not on the political radar often, the city is holding its sixth Republican presidential straw poll. Last time around in 2007, Mitt Romney won with 31.6% of the vote while Ron Paul captured 9.2%. This time, I would expect Rep. Paul to easily chart in the double digits. However, regardless if he wins or finishes somewhere else, I feel I should add a few words of caution about reading too much into this straw poll.
First, it is a straw poll. It is not binding and the only people allowed to vote are registered voters in Iowa who take the time and effort to show up in Ames.
Second, the winner of this poll does not always go on to win either the Presidency or the Republican nomination. As mentioned, Mitt Romney won while John Sidney McCain placed a distant tenth in 2007. In 1999 and 1995, the eventual Republican nominees emerged victorious (George W. Bush and Bob Dole), but back in 1987, Pat Robertson took first place.
Is the Ames poll important? Yes, I think that all polls have some value and it might thin the field by weeding out minor candidates. For example, after placing sixth in Ames back in 2007, Tommy Thompson withdrew. Another factor to consider is that we should keep in mind that not every candidate chooses to campaign here. Mitt Romney is not bothering with it this year as McCain did last time.
So what is the purpose of Ames? Like any poll, it merely serves as a small sign of things to come. I’d wager that if Ron Paul gets 11 to 12% of the vote here, then it will serve to boost his name ID and media presence significantly. If he finishes below his 2007 total of 9.2%, then it means that the Ron Paul campaign must redouble its efforts.
Speaking from my personal circumstances, I do wonder if I’ll be given the chance to work for Dr. Paul as I did back in 2007/08. Currently, I’m waiting to hear back regarding a handful of political opportunities, Paul’s campaign being among them. Will Ames play a role in their decision? Only time will tell.
Anyway, I encourage you to pay attention to the Ames straw poll. It may or may not correctly forecast the winner, but either way it, along with the media spin to follow, should be fun to watch.