GOP Planning Presidential Straw Poll
By Spencer S. Hsu and Michael D. Shear
Party leaders decided at a state central committee meeting last month to conduct the poll in Northern Virginia, most likely the weekend of Dec. 4-6, said Virginia GOP Executive Director Chris LaCivita. Invitations will be sent to all Republican contenders.
Virginia has played a nearly nonexistent role in presidential politics in recent decades. Although the state has solidly supported Republican nominees since 1968, its June primary date has come too late in the nominating cycle to gain much attention from candidates.
In 1996, Virginia Republicans did not select national convention delegates until May, when former senator Robert J. Dole, of Kansas, had wrapped up the nomination.
The previous summer, the Virginia GOP's last straw poll attempt was controlled by conservative commentator Patrick J. Buchanan. Buchanan, a McLean resident, bused in supporters to a Tysons Corner hotel to win 59 percent of the 1,083 votes cast, a result that several Republican leaders pointed to as a barometer of the sentiment of party activists.
The rumblings about a 1998 straw poll prompted pundits to speculate about who might gain from the event and Democrats to snipe about who might lose. One refrain is that former governor George Allen (R) would only benefit from some exposure among GOP 2000 contenders.
Radio talk show host and former state Democratic chairman Paul Goldman idly mused that the backyard poll might spur the interest of one Oliver L. North. A spokeswoman replied, "Ollie loves Virginia and would, if he were invited, evaluate that as he would any other invitation from around the country."
North this year has visited New Hampshire, Louisiana and Arizona, all early primary states.
Staff writer Brooke A. Masters contributed to this report.
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