When it comes to straw polls, from cradle to grave, there’s a whiff of deception in the air. Hardly anything is what it seems.
For instance, political groups don’t take straw polls to measure voters’ opinions or candidates’ strengths – they take them to gin-up attendance for meetings. By telling a cash-strapped candidate, We’re taking a straw poll at our next meeting so you’d better turn out your supporters. Then the poor candidate starts scrambling, spending precious dollars to get people to go to the meeting to vote for him. To win a straw poll, candidates have been known to pay for supporters’ registration fees to conventions or tickets to dinners.
Last election when the Wake County Republican Party held a straw poll during the Republican Primary, my friend George Holding’s campaign didn’t spend a penny. George attended, spoke and his campaign went right on spending its money on TV or radio ads to reach thousands of voters.
That night, after the convention, on his way home George called me and said, Well, I finished last.
How many votes did you get?
It wasn’t George’s happiest night of the campaign. But later, on Election Day, talking to voters rather than winning straw polls paid off.
The other night the Wake County Republican Party held another straw poll and, true to form, a candidate who hasn’t aired a single TV ad won. The next morning the News and Observer reported Greg Brannon had beaten Thom Tillis by 12 points and, naturally, anyone reading the story might think Brannon’s cruising to victory in the primary too. But that’s all smoke and mirrors. It’s just one more straw poll that isn’t what it seems.