The SRLC straw poll, up for grabs
NEW ORLEANS -- Supporters of Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.) are amused by the rumors about their straw poll prowess.
"We keep hearing about the well-organized Paul machine," said Tim Shoemaker, a legislative campaigner for Paul's 501(c)4, the Campaign for Liberty, pointing at three of his friends from the group. "There's four of us here! CPAC happened, then we put this together in four weeks."
Although the C4L got its hands on more than 600 tickets, it did not give them away. Paul supporters had to chip in to come and vote in the straw poll. And on the first day of the straw poll, the trickle of Paul voters was just that -- a trickle, nothing like the overwhelming presence that got Paul a resounding (if fairly meaningless) victory.
By contrast, Nancy French's Evangelicals for Mitt has been offering around 200 tickets for free, for anyone who wants to come and support Mitt Romney. At the party before Sean Hannity's live taping of his TV show, French's group handed out 800 copies of their man's book, "No Apology," and countless piggy banks. It's hard to say how many of the people grabbing those favors will back Romney -- one woman I spoke to, clutching two piggy banks, snorted when I asked if she'd vote for Romney.
"These are for my grandkids," she said.
So anyone expecting a repeat of CPAC should hold off for Paul's speech today -- if the room is full, said Shoemaker, their man can win the straw poll. If not, the lack of focus on 2012, the lack of campaigning here by Mike Huckabee and Tim Pawlenty, makes it hard to predict the outcome. And while the outcome won't matter in the long run, there's a big difference between the narrative of a Paul victory, say, a Palin victory. Few, however, expect Romney to pull it out.
"Evangelicals for Mitt," laughed one GOP strategist who wasn't backing any particular candidate. "You notice that their signs mention everything except religion."