WASHINGTON -- Despite Gov. Rick Perry's splashy entrance into the GOP presidential race, Rep. Michele Bachmann has gained the most ground recently in the eyes of influential Republicans polled by The Huffington Post and Patch in the big three early-voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Thirty-three percent of those responding to the new HuffPost-Patch Outsiders Poll said the Minnesota congressman, spurred by her surprise victory in the Ames Straw Poll last Saturday, had done the most to benefit her campaign last week. The Texas governor, who announced his candidacy last Saturday in South Carolina and who has been touring Iowa since then, finished second with 30 percent.
Although former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is widely perceived as a frontrunner, only 8 percent of the respondents said his performance in the last week boosted his standing. Ron Paul, who finished a close second to Bachmann in the Ames Straw Poll, also failed to impress the influential Republicans, as only 8 percent said he had helped his campaign.
The results are the first from a new survey designed to tap the uniquely extensive and deep reporting resources of the AOL Huffington Post Media Group in the three early GOP voting states. Future surveys will expand to include other key states in the nomination race and general election swing states nationwide as our network grows.
We're looking to expand our list of influential and elected members of both parties in the three early states and across the country. If you fit the criteria and would like to participate, email John.Celock@huffingtonpost.com, and we'll connect you with the appropriate Patch reporter.
We aim to listen in to the ongoing conversation among party leaders, elected officials and activists known as the "invisible primary," since journalist Arthur T. Hadley used that term to describe it 35 years ago in a book of the same name. Hadley noted that since the 1930s, party nominating conventions tended to make their choice on a single ballot rather than truly deliberating through multiple ballots, and that leaders at the time of the first primary tended to win.
More recently, in the book "The Party Decides," four political scientists reached a similar conclusion. They argued that the “long running national conversation" that occurs among party leaders and activists helps the party figure out which potential nominee “can best unify the party and win the fall election.”
In a recent interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, one of the authors, Georgetown University assistant professor of political scientist Hans Noel, urged journalists to go beyond the usual coverage of presidential candidates and instead focus on this ongoing conversation among the party faithful. For example, he said, reporters could "go and talk to the various party leaders in Iowa, various activists, people who have been influential in earlier campaigns. You would cover Iowa, rather than covering Michele Bachmann in Iowa." Such a process, he said, is "daunting" and harder than following individual candidates. "But that is the place where the questions need to be asked."
So here at The Huffington Post and Patch, we are going to do just that. This first report involves what will be an ongoing effort by our Patch local editors to identify and regularly query a wide swathe of Republican party leaders, local elected officials and campaign activists about the ongoing presidential contest. We are building the list from the ground up, with local editors identifying these influential Republicans with old-fashioned reporting and then asking them to answer questions via email. We are starting in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and plan to both grow the number of participants in those states and expand to other key primary states.
We are calling our participants “Power Outsiders” because these are the people outside-the-beltway who have local influence -- which means real power -- as the election heats up. You probably won't recognize their names, but their opinions will likely have great influence on the outcome of caucuses, primaries and elections at the precinct, county and state levels.
While we will ask standardized poll questions, these results cannot be considered a scientific sampling of a larger population. Yet they will amount to the most extensive and systematic effort of its kind to monitor the opinions of Republican activists and party leaders in the early primary and caucus states. As our project expands, we'll poll influential members of both parties on hot political topics and on issues being ignored in Washington -- such as the unfolding unemployment crisis.
For this first round of questions, we reached out to roughly 240 individuals we identified in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina and asked three questions. We received responses from 133 people, including 58 from New Hampshire, 38 from Iowa and 37 from South Carolina (we asked respondents to allow us to publish their names as participants, and those appear below, but we will report results in aggregated form only).
We asked the Republican Power Outsiders to think about "the events of the last week, including the debate and the Ames straw vote in Iowa," and to name the candidate or potential candidate who "did the most to help their campaign over the last week." Most named either Bachmann (33 percent) or Perry (30 percent).
While we included Sarah Palin on the list of announced or potential candidates, not a single respondent mentioned Palin as having helped her cause in the past week.
We also asked about the presidential debate held in Iowa and televised by Fox News last Thursday. Most (72 percent) said they watched. A follow-up question asked for their "best guess as to how many rank-and-file Republicans in your area watched the debate." Less than a quarter (23 percent) said they thought "most" Republicans watched, with the rest said they thought "about half" (12 percent), "some" (43 percent) or "hardly any" (7 percent) watched.
"The percentage who watched the debate is high," Hans Noel told The Huffington Post via email, "as it should be for a group of truly influentials." He noted that their estimate of the number of rank-and-file that watched also seems high. The debate drew 5.2 million viewers on Fox News, which amounts to roughly 4 percent of all television households. The estimate of how many watched may be true for Republicans in the early primary states, he wrote, "or it might be that influentials mistake how attentive everyone else is."
Noel also noted that the perceived boost for Bachmann and Perry seems both accurate and a reflection of the conventional wisdom, although it's "hard to tell" if the opinions of those polled "are setting that conventional wisdom (which I'd like to believe), or just reflecting it." Nonetheless, Noel said he is impressed "a debate that I bet few across the country saw, and a straw poll that few really believe is that predictive, and Perry's announcement, combined to turn the undefined race into a three-way race almost overnight. That's either a media-created story, or it's coming from these influentials (or some combination)."
The HuffPost-Patch Power Outsiders
All of the individuals listed below have agreed to participate in the Power Outsiders surveys, although many did not respond to the first questions.
Cory Adams (Story County GOP chair), Leah Adams (Co-Chair, Johnson County Republican Women), Chad Airhart (Dallas Co. recorder), Skye Alison (Insurance Sales), Roger Anderson (Member, Johnson County GOP Executive Committee), Shane Blanchard (Waukee City Council), Carmine Boal (Former State Representative, now works for governor), Steve Boal (CFO, Accu-Mold), Irene Chalmers-Neubauer (Republican precinct captain), Arleigh Clemens (Co-Chair Johnson County Republicans), Jeremy Davis (Councilman), Tyler DeHaan (IT Services), Debra Derksen (PR person for Johnson County GOP), Mike Elam (Organizer, Dallas County GOP), Paul Fell (Santorum supporter), Amanda Freel (State House Repub Staff), Natalie Ginty (Chairwoman, Iowa Federation of College Republicans), Rick Hermann (Sales Manager, WeatherTech Automotive), William Keettel (Former head, Johnson County Republicans), Kevin Koester (State Representative), Marilyn Krocheski, Jon McAvoy (Head of Dallas County Republicans), Isaiah McGee (Owner, McGee strategies), Cynthia Michel (Precinct Captain), Mike Nolan (Republican Party noteable), Bill Peard (Waukee Mayor), Rick Sanders (Republican Supervisor), Mike St. Clair (Lobbyist), Chad Steenhoek (Member, Strong America Now), Wade Steenhoek (Ankeny City Council ), Ronald Stenstrom (Romney Supporter), Karen Svede (Former statewide candidate), Rob Taylor (Running for Iowa House Seat), Mike Thayer (Editor/Publisher Coralville Courier), Deb Thornton (Worked in Republican administrations), Robert Wennerholm (Precinct Captain), Randy Yontz (Director Leadership Institute).
Eric Anderson (Former State Rep/Chair Bow Board of Selectmen), Gary Azarian (State Rep.), D.J. Bettencourt (State Rep., Maj. Leader), Bill Boyd (Town Councilor), Russell Bridle (Former Hampton Fire Department captain/State Rep.), Ed Brooks (Former ME selectman, town councilor), Chris Buck (Republican activist), Chris Buda (Merrimack GOP Chair), John Cebrowski (State Rep. - Bedford), Chris Christiansen (State Rep), Tim Copeland (State rep.), Jim Costello (American Government teacher), Juanita Dangel (Secretary Hillsborough County GOP), Gary Daniels (State Rep), Ed Declercq (Planning Board), Jerry Delemus (Republican activist), Julie DiCarlo (Small business owner), Ron DiCarlo (Small business owner), Bob Elliott (State Rep.), Gary Ellmer (Chairman, Porsmouth Republican Committee), Frank Ferraro (Exeter Selectman), Laura Foote (Activist), Mauri Foster (Retired), Bianca Garcia (Former Salem GOP Victory Office mgr), David Garcia (Salem Town GOP Chair), Brian Griset (Member of local political committee), Lisa Hansen (Romney supporter), Peter Hansen (State Rep), Pat Hargreaves (Selectman), Jeff Hatch (Salem Romney Town Chair), Ken Hawkins (State Rep - Bedford), Dick Hinch (Current State Rep), Zac Johnson (Technical writer), Ken Jones (Member of Amherst Republicans), Gary Krupp (Member of the School Bud Comm), Michael Lambert (Resident), Steve Landry (Small business owner), Tom Linehan (GOP Activist), Eduardo Lopez-Reyes (Software engineer), Marie Lopez-Reyes (Sales), Stephen E. Ludwick (Chairman, Supervisors of the Checklist, Ward 9), John Lyons (Lawyer), Kris MacNeil (Former State Senate candidate), Joel Maiola (Former Judd Gregg Chief of Staff), Mike Malzone (Small biz owner/ Leader of Merrimack Tea), Andrew Manuse (State Rep - Derry), Harry McClard (Freelance writer), Patrick McDougall (Budget Committee), Bill Modis (Vice Chair of Amherst Republicans), Maureen Mooney (Past State Rep), Keith Murphy (State Rep - Bedford), Sen. Nancy Stiles (State Senator - Hampton), Rick Paige (Loan officer), Michele Peckham (State Rep. - N. Hampton), Amy Perkins (Former State Rep. - Seabrook), Lawrence Perkins (State Rep. - Seabrook), Lenette Peterson (State Rep), Lee Quandt (State rep.), Matt Quandt (Exeter Selectman/State Rep.), Tom Rath (Consultant), Dan St. Hilaire (Executive councilor), Brandon Stauber (Small business owner/recent Exeter transplant), Chris Tremblay (Activist), Pam Tucker (Deputy House Speaker), Mark Vincent (Chair of Amherst Republicans), Jim Waddell (State Rep. - Hampton), Tom Walker (Conservative Republican), Robert Washburn (Former City Councilor), Tony Zore (Tea Party member).
Dean Allen (Tea Party Activist), Charm Altman (President Sea Island Republican Women), Patrick L. Arnold (Campaign and fundraising consultant), Rep. Nathan Ballentine (B House Dist. 71), Bill Banning, Sr. (Vice-chair, Lexington County Council), Bob Barnwell (Richland Co. GOP Spring Valley), Joseph Bates, Jr. (Committeeman/ Richland Co. GOP Dutch Fork ), Eric Bedingfield (State Rep/Congressional Staffer), Rich Bolen (Chair, Lexington County GOP), Andrew Boucher (Business consultant and political advisor), Phillip Bowers, Edward Britt (Engineer), Jay Byars (County council), Ed Carter (Conservative activist), Rep. Joe Daning (Statehouse rep.), Smokey Davis (Lexington County Council member), Dana Eiser (Pres, Lowcountry 9.12), Linda Eiser (9.12 conservative), Chip Felkel (Political Consultant), Chris Godbey (Political Consultant), Randy Halfacre (Mayor of Lexington), Dan Hamilton (State Representative), Larry Hargett (County council), Val Hutchinson (Richland County Council), Johnny Jeffcoat (Town of Lexington Economic and Community Catalyst; Lexington County Council member), Grayson Kelly (Fundraiser), James Kinard (Banker, Chair, Lexington County Council), Todd Kincannon (Lawyer/former executive director of B Republican Party), Karen Martin (Organizer/Spartanburg Tea Party), Senator Larry Martin (Politician), Taft Matney (Conservative Political Consultant), James Metts (Lexington County Sheriff), Matt Moore (Executive Director for SC GOP), Susan Morris (DREAM exec director), Mike Murphee (chair of Chas Tea Party), Don Nye (FNBSC employee), Allen Olson (Chairman / Columbia TEA Party), Gregory Pearce (Richland Co. Councilman), Adam Piper (B GOP 3rd Vice Chairman & political director for Huntsman campaign), Zach Pippin (GOP Media Consultant), Tony Pope (Statefarm Agent), Dennis Raines (Mayoral Candidate), Jeff Reuer (Vice Chair Goose Creek 9-12), DeLinda Ridings (B GOP State Secretary / Huntsman campaign), Robby Robbins (Lawyer), LaDonna Ryggs (Spartanburg GOP Chair), Lanneau Siegling (State Executive Committeeman), Billy Simons (Conservative activist), Garry Smith (State Rep), John Steinberger (Fair Tax activist), Mary Ann Taylor (Charleston County Republican Women/Charleston County School Board), Frank Townsend (Pastor, Lexington County Council member), Knox White (Greenville Mayor), Henry Wilson.