WASHINGTON — Granted, straw polls ain’t what they used to be (a somewhat reliable indicator of who’s going to win something), but they can be useful in smaller contexts, and in that way Tim Pawlenty will be one happy camper about the results of a weekend straw poll of Tea Party activists.
Following a speech at their Phoenix conference, Pawlenty placed second in a Tea Party Patriots straw poll, behind Herman Cain but above Ron Paul (whose supporters typically pack these things, as they did at CPAC). Those three were the only three presidential contenders to speak to the group in person, and in-person appearances generally translate to inflated support in straw polls.
The key for Pawlenty here though, and why his advisers will no doubt be pleased, is that he managed double digits in a poll of people who are not generally considered a part of his base. Pawlenty has never really been considered a Tea Party Republican, certainly not in the way Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann and Cain are, though he has openly courted that demographic in recent months.
It’s also a result that lends some credence to the conventional wisdom that Pawlenty is a solid retail politician who, once voters get to know him, could impact the race. That, alongside the retail nature of Iowa and New Hampshire campaigns, is a message that conceivably buys Pawlenty’s team more time as the presidential field coalesces and he tries to get his scientifically-sampled poll numbers out of the mid-to-low single digits.
The rest of the numbers: Palin took 10 percent support, Mitt Romney had 6 percent and Bachmann came in with a somewhat surprising 5.6 percent (I thought she’d be higher). Paul, the Texas congressman, won a separate online straw poll.