Monday, June 28, 2010

Political Shocker: Yoder wins Olathe Straw Poll

Calling it a political upset would be an understatement. A political earthquake or watershed moment in the Kansas 3rd District congressional race is a more accurate description of what unfolded this past Saturday.

The annual straw poll, conducted during the last weekend of June at the Olathe Republican picnic, doesn't tend to be a very accurate barometer of campaign strength or electoral outcomes, only because it skews heavily conservative. In fact, the event is usually only attended by a handful of political insiders and candidates.

The Yoder campaign knew they had an uphill battle and privately conceded that the best outcome would be a very narrow margin between Kevin Yoder and Patricia Lightner in the results. Yet the eventual outcome, a 39 vote margin (156 votes to 117 for Lightner) is a testament to the strength and energy behind the Yoder campaign and their grassroots strategy. For the last week prior to the picnic, Yoder staffers canvassed neighborhoods in Olathe, notifying supporters of the straw poll and giving them coupons allowing them to vote in the poll and enter the picnic free of charge courtesy of the campaign. Yoder staffers also peppered the entrance to the picnic and the surrounding area with yard signs and Kevin Yoder himself greeted attendees as they entered the event, providing them with information and that personal connection that voters--especially undecided voters--crave.

This aggressive and intense strategy netted the campaign a plurality of votes in the poll and a win no one saw coming. And the message is that if Kevin can win an extremely conservative straw poll in the heart of Johnson County's bastion of conservatism, Olathe, then Yoder's campaign is in position for a resounding victory at the polls on August 3rd.

Some opponents have already countered with accusations of vote-buying and the lack of representation of the poll results due to the tactics used. Apparently, they have been MIA the last several years, as buying supporters' way into the picnic and steering them to the poll is a longstanding practice that has been done by many campaigns--maybe not as overtly as Yoder's campaign and others did this year, but nonetheless, it's common practice and no one has ever claimed that this straw poll is representative. On the contrary, past election results indicate that the poll is nothing more than a barometer of which campaign has grassroots support and a good organization in place to round up supporters for the vote. Tiahrt's campaign bused in supporters from Wichita, just as they did last year, so whether a campaign buys tickets for their supporters to vote in the poll or pays for supporters from out of town to vote in a poll that is supposed to be test of local support, it is to be expected and is par for the course when it comes to straw polls. Yet I don't hear these same opponents complaining that Tiahrt's people circumvented the process by buying votes.

At any rate, this poll does indicate momentum, the intensity of Yoder's support, and the efficacy of the Yoder campaign's grassroots mobilization--all necessary components to ensure a victory on August 3rd and ultimate victory on November 2nd.

1 comment:

Overland Park Buck said...

If Yoder wins the primary, I will support him versus the Democrat. But, my vote in the primary is for Patricia Lightner. Something rubs me the wrong way about a candidate subtly portraying themselves as having children in an attempt to cast a family man image. As a father, there is no comparison between raising children and simply hanging out with nieces and nephews. It makes me wonder what bigger issues Yoder will distort.