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The significance of the Minnesota GOP straw poll

The poll provides a starting point, helping campaigns decide whether a candidate still has a shot or has settled so far down in the pecking order that it’s even worth campaigning here. 

In a straw poll taken at the party’s meeting of its central committee over the weekend, 32 percent of the group cast their vote for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
MinnPost photo by Brian Halliday

Minnesota’s most ardent Republican activists have shown a preference for the most conservative Republican candidate for president.

In a straw poll taken at the party’s meeting of its central committee over the weekend, 32 percent of the group cast their vote for Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, followed by 16 percent for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, and 11.7 percent for Carly Fiorina.

The 283 delegates who voted are a fraction of the people expected to show up for the Republican caucuses on March 1, of course, and represent the most conservative wing of the party. (At the same gathering in 2012, the straw poll favored Rick Santorum, who gathered less than one percent support this year.)

More than just offering a snapshot of delegates’ preferences at this early date, though, the poll tells campaigns how active to make their Minnesota operations.

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For the Cruz campaign, it’s obvious. “The next stage is drilling down into every single senate district and BPOU [basic political operating units, the smallest organizational units in the party] and making sure we are organized,” said Brandon Lerch, Minnesota director for the Cruz campaign.

For the remaining campaigns, the weekend vote gives them a start value. Like national preference polling, it will help decide whether a candidate still has a shot, or has settled so far down in the pecking order that the campaign goes into suspension.

Among other things, the straw poll also demonstrated party activists’ tendency to buck trends. Frontrunners Donald Trump and Ben Carson earned 10 percent and eight percent of the vote.

Rand Paul, whose father Ron Paul ultimately carried the Minnesota delegation’s votes to the 2012 Republican National Convention, won 10 percent of the vote. Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie, and Mick Huckabee barely made a dent, each gathering just over or under one percent of the vote of the delegates.