Photo Courtesy of Matt Collins
Matt Collins has the scoop (H.T. Nashville Post):
I have just returned home from New Orleans where the 2010 Southern Republican Leadership Conference was held. I was there, on the ground, witnessing and participating in the events firsthand.
Regardless of one's desired outcome, the SRLC straw poll results should raise some legitimate questions in the minds of any objective and reasonable individual. These are questions that the SRLC or the firm that conducted the poll, Wilson-Research Strategies (the RNC is one of their clients), should be happy to answer if they are interested in retaining an aura of integrity, transparency, and credibility. One of the first questions is whether or not there were any ballots that were spoiled? If so what were the criteria and threshold for a ballot to be considered "spoiled"? Will an independent and open audit be allowed of all of the ballots? Were the ballots actually numbered or encoded as was suggested they would be? Can the ballots now be inspected by parties other than SRLC or W-R-S staff?
Late in the afternoon on Saturday (immediately following Ron Paul's speech) I walked by the room where the voting was taking place and the doors were closed. Conference participants were being kept out of the room and told that voting would reopen again "soon". When someone asked why the doors to the room where the straw poll was being conducted were closed, the gentleman at the door said that they were "tabulating a batch" of ballots. The obvious question that immediately came to mind: ‘who' was tabulating the ballots, and did each candidate have representation in the room while these ballots were being tabulated? Also was it standard operating procedure to periodically tabulate the ballots throughout the entire weekend? And if so, following each tabulation, were the most recent counts made public? Given the statistical proximity of the top two contenders one would think that more details would be revealed in a prudent effort to ensure transparency-the apparent difference between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney is a sliver of a fraction (0.0055%).
Until these questions are answered it would be wise for the media to refrain from referring to Governor Romney as the "winner" of the straw poll while such a fine and statistically insignificant difference between the top contenders exist. And because of the heightened atmosphere surrounding this poll due to the current political zeitgeist it would be irresponsible for anything other than full transparency of the procedure and methods of this straw poll to be revealed.
There were other disconcerting issues that occurred during the weekend. In my experience the SRLC was very poorly organized and inefficient. Registration was chaotic, vague, and not intuitive; signage was sorely lacking and unclear. Also registration was closed as early as 1pm on Saturday causing anyone who had not picked up credentials by that time to be denied voting privileges as well as access to the ballroom where the speeches were being delivered. The parking garages at the hotel were full early in the day with the nearest parking being 20 minutes away by foot. The straw poll voting times were erratic too. Supposedly the ballots were not printed on time and the straw poll did not open on schedule. I had been informed that 2pm was when voting opened on Friday whereas it was supposed to open at 10am.
The entire SRLC seemed disorganized and sloppy as a whole, not to mention confusing. There were several individuals that had the proper credentials but were denied entry into the "Taste of Louisiana" reception on Friday night. Accurate schedules, informational help, maps, question and answer desks etc, were not made readily available for ease of access. All of this is a bit saddening considering the Party is going to attempt to retake nationwide political power in the next few months. Having such a difficult time organizing their own conference I have to wonder about their effectiveness when it matters most, during election season.
But in all fairness I must say that considering the fact that the Constitutionally conservative / limited-government wing of the Republican Party has grown substantially compared to previous years, the event was indeed very encouraging. In fact judging by the reception that Ron Paul received during his speech I would say that the Republican Party is slowly but surely starting to embrace the ideals of limited government conservatism. The feeling in the room when Congressman Paul spoke was beyond electric and the prevailing excitement was not just emanating from ardent Ron Paul supporters. Not only rank-and-file Republicans, but the GOP leadership is also starting to embrace the liberty movement into their fold.