The early rounds of polling data for the upcoming Republican primary battle have begun to trickle in, and those on the pro-liberty side of the aisle have reason to be a little concerned. Decades have passed since circumstances have been ripe enough for an unconventional, constitutional conservative nominee to emerge, and it is certainly way too early in the game to draw too many conclusions from premature poll numbers. But they are what they are, giving a picture of the current state of things; and this picture is one of the same old, status quo politics that everyone claims to despise.
Not only are the raw state-by-state and national numbers disconcerting, but the more in-depth numbers are even more alarming. Mason-Dixon’s poll of the all important Florida Republican primary shows Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee leading the pack, with Donald Trump a distant third. Ron Paul checks in at 3%, good for an 8th place finish, followed by Michele Bachmann at a mere 1%; Gary Johnson’s name does not even appear in their results.
The nationwide Fox News poll had Huckabee and Romney in first and second place, respectively; Trump was amazingly only a few points behind Huckabee for the top choice among Republicans. Ron Paul again checked in again at 3% (8th place). Bachmann at 2% and Johnson 1%. Considering the poll’s margin of error was 3%, this is not a good early indicator. But this survey revealed something even more ominous: among voters who describe themselves as ‘Tea Party’ members, Paul checked in at 5%, Bachmann 4%, and Gary Johnson 1%. These three trailed the likes of Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney among even the Tea Party demographic, a group one would instinctively pigeonhole as their allies and natural support base.
Paul checked in at 4% on the Public Policy Polling nationwide survey for Republican primary voters done in March, a poll that further showed the trend of establishment GOP candidates again substantially leading the pack. A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Donald Trump only slightly trailing the other front runners, but we can only hope his appeal is just the passing flavor of the week. Unless blind populist rage fuels emotional decision making in the voting booths, it likely is.
Okay, so getting bogged down in all these statistics is unnecessary; the trend they point towards is what comes into focus when viewed in totality. Many might dismiss these as little more than a test of name recognition, and we can only hope they are correct. But there are serious problems on the horizon when someone like Newt Gingrich actually leads more liberty-friendly candidates among the Tea Party wing of the GOP. This would be expected among the moderate, Northeast Rockefeller-heir types, but among those who claim they want conservatism to define the party once again? This seems odd to say the least.
If electing a Mitt Romney or Gingrich is going to be ultimate fruit borne by the Tea Party movement, we might as well just pack up and go home. These are precisely the same conventional, lip-service-to-the-Constitution types that conservatives are supposedly tired of being misled by. And yet the early data shows Republicans are once again willing to fall right into line to vote for them all over again.
We certainly have our work cut out for us, and it is good news that the first primary is still over six months away. Maybe our party’s primary voters, the rank and file that must be won to have any chance of nominating a true believer in the Constitution, will have a change of heart if they tune in closely to the upcoming debates. If we can have someone who makes a passionate and focused case for a return to sound money and limited government, then perhaps clear headed thinking ultimately rules the day in the 2012 Republican primary.
Republicans cannot be willing to simply settle for the same tired, disproved big government conservatism that blew up in their faces during the initial portion of this decade. These poll numbers need to turn around in the coming months, and with the right tone and articulation there remains every reason to hope they will.