Frist wins SRLC '08 Straw Poll
This weekend the Southern Republican Leadership Conference was held in Memphis, TN and many of the '08 Presidential hopefuls on the GOP side were in attendance. Bill Frist, Mitt Romney, George Allen and John McCain were among the honored guests who addressed the conference this weekend and hoped to boost their own propsects for the 2008 nomination.
Last night, a straw poll sponsored by Hotline was conducted of the conference attendees to indicate their preference for the Party's nominee in 2008. Given the conference's location it should come as no surprise that Tennessee Senator, and Majority Leader, Bill Frist came in first with 36.9% of the vote. However, the results should not be discounted as Frist is not running for re-election this year and will have free reign to travel the country seeking support while Allen and McCain are tethered to Capitol Hill. The second place finisher was Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who is also not seeking re-election this year. Virginia's George Allen finished in third place tied with President George Bush.
The Allen-Frist-Romney dynamic will be an interesting one to watch as all three are likely to try an position themselves as the conservative alternative to the more moderate McCain (not to mention Giuliani or Pataki if they get in). Frist's only experience in elected office is his six years in the Senate so he is likely to emphasize both his quick rise to leadership as NRSC Chair and the Majority Leader combined with his practical experience as a doctor and how that could affect health care reform.
Romney is also a relative political neophyte with only a single four-year term as Governor in a liberal state under his belt. He'll rely on his ability to win in a blue state as a key to his "electability." I am guessing that Romney might skip the Iowa caucuses and focus his attention on winning the nearby New Hampshire primary to give him some momentum. Still, I think his candidacy will die in South Carolina where his Mormonism will allow him no better than a fourth-place finish.
Allen has a much longer career in public service from which to draw as a State Legislator, Congressman, Governor and now Senator. Allen is likely to emphasize his success as an executive in reforming welfare, education and criminal justice in Virginia thereby setting a standard for many similar reforms at the national level. he will also rely on his Chairmanship of the NRSC in 2004, when the GOP gained 4 Senate seats, for proof of his ability as a Party leader. Just like Frist and Romney, Allen's weakness may be in the areas of defense and national security. However, Allen at least has his seat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his relationship with Senate Armed Services Committee chair John Warner from which to draw. Even so, Allen probably has more ground to make up on Name ID than either Frist or Romney.
Allen-Frist-Romney will certainly be an interesting relationship to keep an eye on over the next two years. While the latter two seem to have an advantage at this stage, I would not count out Allen who loves playing the underdog.