2006 Southern Republican Leadership Conference
The Peabody Hotel, Memphis, TN, March 9-12, 2006

This was the first major "cattle show" of the 2008 Republican presidential race.  Joined by the Midwestern Republican Conference, the Southern Republican Leadership Conference brought together over 1,800 people from 26 states.  Six presidential prospects spoke: Gov. Mitt Romney (MA), Sen. John McCain (AZ), Sen. George Allen (VA), Sen. Sam Brownback (KS), Gov. Mike Huckabee (AR), and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (TN).  Four major presidential prospects were invited but did not attend: former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE), and Gov. George Pataki (NY), recovering from an appendectomy.  Americans for Dr. Rice set up a booth to promote their efforts to draft Condoleezza Rice.  Longshot prospect Rep. Tom Tancredo (CO), a leading advocate of strong controls on immigration, was not invited although supporters lobbied for his inclusion.

The Hotline, the National Journalís daily political briefing, organized a straw poll that drew considerable media attention.  Sen. McCain muddied the waters by urging his supporters to write in President Bush, and the fact that the event occurred on Sen. Frist's home turf also skewed the results (according to the Hotline, 742 voters, or more than half, were from Tennessee).  Additionally, spporters of Dr. Rice were miffed that the Tennesse Republican Party chose to exclude her from the ballot.

The straw poll was open to paid, registered SRLC attendees at least 18 years old or older on the day of voting, Saturday March 11.  There were five hours for voting, from 10-12 a.m. and 2-5 p.m..  The ballot listed 10 prospects in alphabetical order (George Allen, Sam Brownback, Bill Frist, Newt Gingrich, Rudy Giuliani, Chuck Hagel, Mike Huckabee, John McCain, George Pataki, Mitt Romney) and allowed write ins.  Voters were instructed, "Place a '1' next to the name of the candidate whose nomination you most support and a '2' next to your second choice.  The Republican with the most first choice votes wwill be designate the winner of the straw poll."  A second part of the ballot asked, "Which Democrat has the best chance to win your state's electoral votes?"

Of 1,427 ballots, 1,311 were valid (116 spoiled):
First Choice Results
Frist 526 36.9%
Romney 205  14.4%
Allen 147 10.3%
G.W.Bush 147 10.3%
McCain 66 4.6%
Huckabee 54 3.8%
Pataki 38 2.7%
Brownback 22 1.5%
Giuliani 15 1.1%
Gingrich 13 <1%
Hagel 3 <1%
Rice (not on ballot) 32 2.2%
Others 43 3.0%

Copyright ©  2006  Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action