Archives: Perry’s straw poll defeats indicate lack of grassroots support

Originally published in October 2011
Simon Nguyen

While his rivals have been raking in straw-poll victories, Rick Perry has yet to win an important straw poll. Despite his vigorous courting of social conservatives, the Texas governor recently finished a disappointed fourth in the Values Voter Summit straw poll. Although these small-sample polls are not reliable predictors of election outcomes, they do reveal the intensity of one’s grassroots support. After all, the people who vote in these polls are the ones most likely to raise money and volunteer time for their preferred candidates.

For Rick Perry to win the Republican nomination, he will need broad grassroots support to counter Mitt Romney’s advantage with moderate Republicans and independents. What is most concerning about Perry’s straw poll defeats is that most of these were contested in must-win primary states. The Texas governor was widely expected to win the Florida straw poll, only to play second fiddle to a surging Herman Cain. Rick Perry also fared unsatisfactorily in Georgia, Michigan and California. This makes one wonder how much grassroots support is there for Governor Perry outside of Texas.

Another problem for Rick Perry is the fact that he has been consistently beaten in the straw polls by candidates with whom he competes for the same group of voters. Perry was defeated several times by Herman Cain, who gained prominence after his surprise victory in the Florida straw poll. The ultra conservative Cain has been the main beneficiary of Perry’s slide in the national polls, rising to as high as second place behind Mitt Romney in the latest Gallup poll. All in all, hardcore conservatives appear to be defecting from the Texas governor in favor of Herman Cain.

The good news for Rick Perry is that he has ample time and funds to establish strong organizational support in key primary states. According to the Houston Chronicle, the Perry’s campaign had raised $15 million as of September 30. Still, the Texas governor is desperate for a big confidence boost. Perry will need a strong debate performance, a huge straw-poll victory or both to bring back the swagger that was lost following a string of straw poll defeats and poor debate performances. It remains to be seen if he could accomplish this.

About the site