It’s only fitting that a libertarian would win an election that charged money to vote.
That would be Ron Paul, who took 52 percent of the vote in the Illinois Straw Poll, in which Republicans paid $5 to register their preference for a presidential candidate. Mitt Romney was second, with 35 percent. Pizza king/alleged office flirt Herman Cain finished third.
This is Paul’s third recent straw poll victory. He won the Ohio Straw Poll with 53 percent of the vote, the Values Voter Straw Poll with 37 percent, and the National Federation of Republican Assemblies in Des Moines, Iowa, with 82 percent.
What all these straw polls have in common is that they’re nothing like actual elections. They’re easily rigged by candidates with intense but shallow followings. For example, in the Illinois Straw Poll, Republicans could vote online or in person. Paul won 66.5 percent of the online vote, but only 8 percent of the in-person vote. Paul’s supporters spend their weekends posting on freerepublic.com and townhall.com, so voting was a page click away.
The straw polls are not a reflection of Paul’s actual support, writes the Christian Science Monitor:
In the most recent ABC News/Washington Post, Rasmussen Reports, and Quinnipiac polls, Paul remains in single digits behind Herman Cain, Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry among those likely to vote in the Republican primaries or caucuses. And like Michele Bachmann, he’s dropped several percentage points since October, according to the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll.
But Paul continues to do well in the straw polls because of the way they’re designed and because it’s easier for his enthusiastic and very loyal supporters to take part.
However, the fact that Paul has such as intense following presents this problem for the Republicans: that intense following belongs to Ron Paul, not the Republican Party. A few weeks ago, I spoke to a leader of the local tea party movement who said she wouldn’t work for Mitt Romney if he’s the Republican nominee, because “he doesn’t represent my issues.” Who would she work for? “Ron Paul.”
Paul only got about 2,000 votes in the Illinois Straw Poll. But those are 2,000 people who would work 12 hours a day to get him elected -- and might not even vote for anyone else.
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