Gov. Tim Pawlenty was supposedly one of the top, if not the top, Republican candidate for president, said the pundits. But on 14 August 2011 he withdrew from the race, after a disappointing performance in the much-ballyhooed Ames Iowa GOP straw poll.
This is just absurd. The race hadn't even started yet. Some probable major contestants like Palin hadn't even declared they were running yet! Perry declared he was running on the day of the straw poll (in which he was not even officially entered). Not a single primary had been held yet, and the first would be 6 months later.
I claim it is the plurality voting system causing this absurdity. It places such a huge premium on "appearing to be a frontrunner" (so that donors and voters can feel their donations/votes will not be wasted) that Pawlenty felt the need to drop out even at this incredibly early stage, after doing poorly in a baloney GOP straw poll with virtually no meaning whatever.
The Ames straw poll is mainly a fundraising gimmick by the Iowa GOP, which in 2011 charged $30 for the "privilege" of voting in it, plus "rent" fees assessed to each candidate. Bachmann, in addition to her rent fee (minimum rent was $15,000) also paid the $30 voting fees for 6000 voters – of which, note, at least 1177 voted for somebody else! The previous Ames straw poll (2008) was won by Mitt Romney, who paid over a million dollars to engineer said "victory," bussing in thousands of supporters from all over the state (free wining and dining for them all). However, this did not greatly benefit him, since John McCain, who had finished 10th in that straw poll with approximately 2% of Romney's vote-count, won the GOP presidential nomination with over twice Romney's votes. (Romney in 2011 got wise and decided not to waste his money competing in the Ames poll.) This poll is about as far as it is possible to get from "accurate professional poll techniques."
This sort of randomness and its consequences are hurting the USA tremendously.
An interesting data point which got far less press coverage, was the straw poll at the "Heartland Liberty Fest" (Omaha Nebraska 6 August 2011). It was conducted using 0-to-10 range voting, not plurality voting, and only assessed a $2 fee per vote. The results are in the table on the right. Raw data (11 MByte xls with "bullet style one-10 and rest-0s" ballots highlit in red)
Pawlenty actually won that poll.
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