Justin Hart of Race42008 wrote a post that is 95% correct. He said:
You don’t try to win straw polls as proof of your national success among a group of voters. You don’t try to win straw polls as proof of momentum. You don’t try to win straw polls as solid proof of your chances at victory.
You DO try to win straw polls to gain free press to accomplish all three of the above. In other words: straw polls are a means to an end and not the end itself.
One of the lessons that I learned early on in my political career, was that the vote was the 2nd most interesting thing that happens at a political event like a convention. There is always horse-trading before, but there is also horse-trading afterwards. People frame, spin, and negotiate what happened. And that is the most interesting thing. I speculated:
When the social conservative leaders meet tomorrow for their post-mortem, they will not be able to push people into supporting Romney.
At this point, I think that people like Tony Perkins want to get behind Mitt Romney. I have no doubt in my mind. He tried and tried and tried to spin the straw poll results to be more positive for Romney. But they don’t know if they can get away with it. Why? Look what is happening to Bob Jones:
The Bob Jones University family has never followed Bob Jones III in lockstep fashion, school officials will tell you.
But Jones’ surprise endorsement of Mitt Romney in the Republican presidential primary has sparked a sharp division of opinion in this stronghold of Christian fundamentalism.
Within an hour of the story hitting the Internet on Greenville-Online.com last Tuesday, e-mails and chat began to come in from BJU people who felt "Dr. Bob" had abandoned his religious principles in the name of political pragmatism by supporting a Mormon.
Is this bigotry? Sure. Is it real? That too. Is it excusable? Nope, but it is still real. (I remember my grandpa, a life-long pastor in small, rural, evangelical churches, telling me, in his 70s, that he was surprised to find out recently that Catholics could be — not "are", but "could be" — Christians) I am still convinced that some of the language that Mike Huckabee used on Saturday was pointed directly at this problem. And he hit it dead on.
Erick, over at Redstate, concurs with my instinct that this is what was going to happen:
Second, I’m told that people in the room tabulating the votes were stunned by Huckabee’s showing. Stunned, for some of them, is an understatement. It seems clear to me that this was an opportunity for the leaders of the social conservative movement to sigh, shrug, and embrace Romney. They intended to. …
Now, you can call me partisan or biased or whatever you want, but all I’m doing here is reporting. The leaders of the social conservative movement who were present, the Arlington Group members you hear so much about, were ready and willing to get on board Romney’s campaign on Saturday morning. Then Huckabee spoke. Then the straw vote was tabulated. Then they realized that were they to do so, it would put them completely out of step with their members.
(Incidentally, you should read the rest of Erick’s post. It is about the shake up to the party that a Mike Huckabee nomination would create. I don’t think I really disagree)
The upshot is that Mitt Romney went into the weekend and got a great success. The headlines were phenomenal for him, although the stories were more mixed. But he wanted more. And the interest group leaders were prepared to deliver. But Huckabee’s stellar performance illustrated the disconnect between the interest group leaders and the members.
And that disconnect left a continued split in the social conservative groups. And a slightly less bumpy road for Rudy Guiliani.