We organized a "viewing party" for Republican voters at a pub in Palatine for the presidential debate on October 11, 2011 in New Hampshire. At the conclusion of the debate, we conducted a straw poll among the attendees, and the results were fairly surprising. The field has split into three clear leaders.
- Herman Cain has edged into the lead, both as the first choice and second choice.
- Mitt Romney finished a close second as the first choice, but had less support as a second choice.
- Newt Gingrich was slightly behind Romney as first choice, but was a stronger second choice.
- Michele Bachmann gained some support as a second choice.
- Rick Santorum still has some loyal supporters, but doesn't seem to be gaining much traction.
- Rick Perry seems to have lost the strong support that was expected in prior polls.
One reason why this straw poll is interesting is the process by which the event was promoted. Some attendees were active members of the independent conservative groups which sponsored the event, but it was promoted by targeted telephone invitations to thousands of known Republican primary voters in Barrington, Palatine, and Schaumburg townships in suburban Cook County.
Although it may not be a scientifically representative poll, such as a truly random sample of the local population, this is a very relevant sample as a focus group. In short, these are "people who show up" on Republican primary election day.
Next week, on October 18, there will be a similar presidential debate from Las Vegas on CNN. A similar "viewing party" will be arranged with a different target audience from the same local townships to include more independent or swing voters. This should provide an interesting comparision of current opinions among Republicans and more independent voters.
For information about that event on October 18, refer to:
This event was organized by volunteers from the Barrington, IL Tea Party and the Awaken America groups in Palatine and Schaumburg, also known as The Great Awakening group.
The results of this latest straw poll are also consistent with the recent surge in popularity by the Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich campaigns, as documented in straw polls after Herman Cain spoke at the TeaCon event in Schaumburg and at the National Federation of Republican Women meeting in Kansas City recently.
This is shaping up to be a very competitive Republican primary election on March 20 in Illinois. The campaigns are already circulating petitions to get on the ballot, and to select delegates for the nominating convention in Tampa. As some of the early primary states have been moving up their election dates to January or perhaps even December, competition will really heat up now.
It's a safe bet that the next debate on October 18 from Las Vegas on CNN will narrow the field, but the race already looks very different than what the news media and political pundits predicted a few months ago.