Texas Rep. Ron Paul is gaining new reasons to tout his continuing underdog campaign for president: a win in California's Republican party straw poll this weekend. Paul's victory comes on the heels of several independent polls of the GOP field placing him in the top tier of presidential hopefuls.
Paul placed first with 44.9 percent of the vote at Saturday's California straw poll of state party members, associate members and registered guests. That total placed him far above second-place finisher Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who received 29.3 percent. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney--who, like Paul, ran for president in 2008--came in third with 8.8 percent.
"This win is just the latest indication of our campaign's growing momentum," Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton said in a statement.
Paul is notorious for winning straw polls, since he has an extremely motivated corps of followers who turn out en masse for voting contests based on limited participation. However, such victories have yet to translate into broader backing among GOP voters; in 2008, he failed to place first in any GOP primary or caucus contest. But Paul's campaign says that dynamic has shifted in the 2012 cycle--and can point to additional polling numbers to make their case.
Several recent independent national polls measuring the appeal of GOP candidates suggest Paul has been inching up. A CNN/ORC International poll released last week showed Paul in fourth place behind Perry, Romney and Sarah Palin. But since the former Alaska governor hasn't yet entered the 2012 race, that makes Paul the de facto third-place candidate in the CNN survey.
Paul also placed third in a Gallup poll released Aug. 24 when Palin was not included.
Both polls suggest that Paul's gain has been Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann's loss. As Bachmann has dipped in the polls, Paul has risen.
Meanwhile, apart from questions surrounding his national standing, Paul continues to capitalize on his ability to quickly raise giant sums online. His campaign announced that it had raised more than $1 million Saturday during a Constitution Day one-day "moneybomb" fundraiser--held the same day as California's straw poll.
Paul, like the other current GOP contenders, benefits from the absence of Republican excitement over the party's presidential field. Many national polls show President Obama losing to a generic Republican but narrowly besting most of the current GOP contenders.
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) recently revealed that he is also dismayed over the GOP's present range of presidential choices and has attempted to recruit three or four other candidates to join the 2012 race.