Was Ron Paul the Real Iowa Straw Poll Winner?

Richard Blair: Ron Paul is sitting pretty. Why? Because Paul's organization is catering to the truly conservative demographic.
This post, written by Richard Blair, originally appeared on the All Spin Zone.

GOP congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul continues to fly under the radar of both the media and the top-tier candidates for the 2008 GOP nomination. However, based on the results of Saturday's GOP straw poll in Iowa, the big dogs in the race need to be watching their rear view mirrors very closely. Candidates in the mirror may be closer than they appear...

The GOP Iowa straw poll was conducted on Saturday, with results being delayed because of a voting machine glitch (as Steve Benen says, insert joke here). There were few surprises.

Why should anyone care about GOP presidential politics at this early stage of the game? Believe me, it's completely unimportant that most of the chatter surrounding the Iowa GOP straw poll is centered on the strong showing by Mitt Romney. His wide-margin first place finish was expected.

Today, corporate media folks are keying on the relatively strong second place showing by former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, with Sam Brownback and Tom Tancredo close on his heels. All three were slugging it out for the fundie vote, and it looks like they sliced this desirable GOP demographic pretty much cleanly into thirds. Essentially, if you add up the fundie votes for Huckabee, Brownback, and Tancredo, it's clear that Romney didn't win the straw poll - the fundies in Iowa won the straw poll by a wide margin.

Most surprisingly, perhaps, is that GOP congressman Ron Paul was competitive. While he finished 5th in the polling, he wasn't a distant fifth, and the straw poll will certainly give his supporters a big lift. If nothing else, the Iowa straw poll is about strength of the respective candidates organizations, and Ron Paul's finish shows that he has some organizational juice behind his campaign.
Richard Blair is the blogmaster of All Spin Zone.
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