I keep coming across headlines like this one:
Ron Paul Wins California Straw Poll
Maybe I'm missing something in the message here? It is hard to balance the confusing, odd-ball, ultra-Libertarian message of the old man from Houston and the future of the Republican Party and America. Is it possible I'm not reading the tea leaves that are clearly stuck to the bottom of the electoral cup?
I went searching the Intrawebz for details and supportive opinions on this improbable occurrence. In short order I found coverage by CNN and MSNBC, two bastions of conservatism....not! Then an item in Politico, which apparently relied on cut/paste of CNN/MSNBC quotes. And the wrap up of the first 25 links or so was an assortment of Ron Paul for President web sites.
Might this be a message shaper in action?
Let's note some things. Straw polls are unscientific polls. They get their name from "straws in the wind" and are characterized by self-selection of the voters. That makes them meaningless in an analysis.
Romney's campaign is not participating at all in straw poll events. They don't need to waste the money. Perry's campaign released a somewhat confusing message on the California doings, implying that the campaign hadn't done anything but that a Perry supporter in the neighborhood had spread a message to some local groups on the straw polling opportunity. None of the other major contenders seem to have paid much attention.
The news items are honest enough to point out that the Ron Paul campaign is heavily vested in the straw poll route to publicity and that they bused in many of the participants, thereby effectively skewing the outcome in their favor.
At the end of my research I was left with a question about who was eligible to vote in this poll? The reports indicate, "Members of the California Republican Party, associated members and registered guests."
Members of the CRP is somewhat meaningless since California does not require party identification at registration and is an "open" primary state and actually chooses most non-presidential candidates by an almost joking "blanket" primary system. In the blanket primary you get all candidates for office from all parties to choose from, then the top two vote-getters face off in the general election. Effectively you can have democrat vs democrat in a lot of races.
So members and "associate members" means nothing. I don't know what the heck a "registered guest" is.
In other words, this story is about nothing that happened somewhere where some people of affiliation unknown chose from an incomplete list to express a misguided or uninformed opinion. That's democracy in action, folks!