Add another straw poll count to Texas congressman Ron Paul's win column. According to CNN, the 76-year-old doctor won the Values Voter Straw Poll in Washington on Saturday, taking 37 percent of the votes. Still, even though he has won more than a handful of straw polls, including the CPAC Straw Poll in February, Paul does not seem to be gaining traction with the general conservative electorate. Perhaps it is because many Americans -- and, therefore, many Republicans -- really do not know who he is.
Paul's nearest competitor was GOP rising star Herman Cain, who received 23 percent of the vote. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum polled 16 percent, while the rest of the candidates, including national front-runners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry, finished with single-digit scores.
But even with Paul's performance (clouded by Values Voter organizer Tony Perkins' offering that 600 people registered on Saturday that were not registered for the entire Summit conference), the highest he has placed on a national poll of Republican and Republican-leaning Independent voters has been 14 percent in early August (USA Today/Gallup). Although he polled 12 percent on a Pew Research Center Poll released on October 6, most of the Texas legislator's numbers have been in the single digit range for much of the presidential race.
Even a brief period of media attention spurred by comedian Jon Stewart's condemnation of the media not bestowing the congressman much attention didn't do much more than grant Paul a little media attention.
And although it is difficult to gain traction when most of the media is distracted by the new (Rick Perry's entrance into the race and New Jersey governor Chris Christie's continuing non-entrance, for example) and the controversial (Perry's stances and Rep. Michele Bachmann simply opening her mouth), part of Paul's problem is that there still are a good many Americans -- and, more specifically, voting Republicans -- who don't know he exists.
According to a Pew Research Center Poll released on Oct. 5, only 54 percent of Americans could name at least one of the Republican candidates -- after continuous news coverage, roughly two dozen straw polls, and six nationally televised debates. Members of the GOP fared somewhat better, with 66 percent of their number able to name at least one candidate running for president. But among them, Paul is mentioned by only 10 percent of the voters. Oddly enough, that is on par with his polling strength.
It would appear that added exposure (sustained rather than brief, such as winning straw polls and making well-received sound bites at rallies and debates) and name recognition might do the Texan wonders in the polls. It did for Bachmann in June and July, Perry in mid-August, and now Atlanta businessman Herman Cain, who has surged in the polls after sound performances at the latest debates and a first-place showing at the Florida Straw Poll.
Perhaps it is a case of Ron Paul simply having not met his time. Perhaps he will see a surge in GOP support within the coming weeks and rise to contend with the top presidential candidates. It isn't as if he has to go far, considering that his single-digit performances in the national polls are still only a few points away from the leaders and the electorate attempt to find a satisfactory candidate.
In the meantime, the Texas congressman can relish the fact that he has won yet another straw poll.