Texas straw poll roundly ignored
First, to the question of "Who is Duncan Hunter?" the answer is, "Winner of the Texas Republican straw poll," with 41 percent. Eat your heart out, Rudy Giuliani, who finished a distant fifth, but still ahead of Mitt Romney and John McCain.
Oh, yes. Duncan Hunter is a conservative Republican congressman from California, who wants to build fences along the Texas-Mexico border, and who worked the crowd in Fort Worth.
(Republicans at their state convention last year seemed ready to have the fence built, which provoked jokes that without the Mexican labor, they might have a problem.)
Another thing the poll demonstrated was that U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Lake Jackson, who calls for such things as a return to the gold standard, finished third, with just over 16 percent in his adopted home state. The former Libertarian Party presidential candidate couldn't get much traction - maybe because he opposed the Iraq War from the get-go.
And the third thing the poll cleared up was by finishing second in the polling - just over 20 percent -- TV's "Law and Order" district attorney and former Tennessee U. S. Sen. Fred Thompson has done about as well by staying away from these things.
(For complete results, go to http://www. texasgop.org/site/PageServer?pagename= straw_pollresults)
Those considered the major candidates - former New York Mayor Guiliani, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain - also did not attend.
That and some other factors - Fort Worth in August, the poll cost money, Labor Day weekend, opening weekend of dove season, no chance to see Gov. Rick Perry in person, since he stayed away too - meant the Texas GOP attracted a cast of just hundreds rather than the thousands they'd hoped for.
Other reasons for the relative lack of interest included that
• the poll doesn't officially mean anything;
• Texas legislators decided against moving their March 4 primary to Feb. 5, unlike some other major states, so the nomination may be cinched up before Texas votes anyway; and
• the national media didn't much care about the gathering, because of the chicken-and-egg thing: no major candidates went, so no major candidates went.
* * *
While the national committees of both Republicans and Democrats have warned several states like Florida not to leap-frog ahead of the current early states if they want their votes counted toward the nomination, others want to change how the system works.
People who know that the Electoral College does not have a football team, but rather is a constitutional device for states to register their votes in presidential and vice-presidential elections, probably also know that almost all states give all their electoral votes to the presidential ticket that carries the state.
The number of electoral votes is the total of the number of members of congress from the state - its members of the House, plus its two members of the Senate. Texas thus has 34 electoral votes.
Some want to change the operation of the electoral college by giving the election to the winner of the national popular vote. Others in some states want to award electoral votes proportionally, rather than winner-take-all.
The simplest is to award the presidency to the winner of the popular rather than the electoral vote. (George W. Bush in 2000 became the fourth president, and the first in more than a century, to finish second in the popular vote but get an electoral vote majority. The others were Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and John Quincy Adams in 1824.)
Critics say doing that would reduce the incentive for candidates to do person-to-person campaigning, as they do now in smaller states like Iowa and New Hampshire, for the media boost of doing well there.
Reach McNeely at dmcneely@austin. rr.com or (512) 323-0248.