Two Views: Straw poll coming up for GOP

The first major straw poll of the 2012 Republican presidential nomination takes place next weekend at the Family Research Council Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C. Will Republicans establish an early leader this election cycle? Or will a few frontrunners battle it out until deep into the primary season?

By Martha Zoller

Talk-show host, Georgia News Network

It’s hard to say. I love polls, all kinds of polls. Karen Handel won the straw poll in Columbus for a governor’s race that is not happening until November 2010. Next weekend, the well-respected Family Research Council Values Voter Summit will take the first straw poll for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Straw polls depend on how well you mobilize your folks at the meeting. I’m predicting a three-way contest between Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin. Rick Santorum is a favorite with this crowd, so he is one to watch, too.

This primary will be a battle leading up to 2012. If conservatives act like conservatives, and their walk matches their talk, they will pick up seats in the House and Senate in 2010. They might even win back the House depending on how health care reform is handled. And in 2012, there will be a battle royal for the Republican, and maybe the Democrat, presidential nomination.

By Michael Bailey

Associate professor of government, Berry College

Ironically, straw polls not only do little to winnow the number of candidates, but they can encourage politicians with little or no chance of winning to jump into the race wholeheartedly. Because they are a kind of manufactured and almost phony event, and everyone knows it, they are little more than opportunities to publicize one’s name. Possible candidates who do not meet expectations can rightly point out that the poll has no binding consequences, and those who beat expectations can enjoy a little boost in the sun. But the effects are not lasting. Nor are straw polls especially good predictors of future success. In 2007 neither Mitt Romney nor John McCain earned a top-five spot in the Texas Straw Poll — the first of the electoral season — and the winner by a large plurality, Duncan Hunter, clearly went nowhere as candidate. There is little chance that this straw poll will have a perceptible impact on the upcoming race.