Texas Governor Bush Wins Presidential Straw Poll
BILOXI, Miss. (AllPolitics, March 1) -- Texas Gov. George W. Bush, the son of the former Republican president, won a presidential straw poll on Sunday at a meeting of Southern Republicans.
Bush won 18 percent of about 1,000 votes cast despite being the only major prospective candidate who did not attend the conference.
Conference attendees were asked who their first choice for the GOP nomination would be. Bush was followed by millionaire publisher Steve Forbes with 15 percent, former Vice President Dan Quayle with 12 percent and Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson with 10 percent.
Missouri Sen. John Ashcroft won 9 percent, 1996 GOP presidential candidate Lamar Alexander took 8 percent and House Speaker Newt Gingrich got 6 percent.
Asked who they thought would win the nomination, 31 percent said Bush, with Quayle following at 14 percent and Forbes with 11 percent.
Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts was the top choice for vice president, winning 26 percent, with Elizabeth Dole following at 16 percent.
Straw polls are often a way for prospective candidates to generate interest and raise funds for a candidacy. But they mean very little in practice since the 2000 election is two years away.
Before the results were announced, Alexander said such polls were based mainly on name recognition. He cited Texas Sen. Phil Gramm, who won several straw polls but whose 1996 campaign collapsed once the contest began in earnest.
Bush is running for re-election as Texas governor this November and has said he will make no overt presidential move until next year.
Several of the potential candidates criticized President Clinton's morality in the Monica Lewinsky controversy. Some attacked the GOP leadership for staying silent on the issue.
"What has been happening in the Oval Office is embarrassing," Alexander said.
However, most of the speakers avoided mentioning Lewinsky by name and did not directly mention the allegations that Clinton had an affair with the former White House intern.
The gathering was open to all Southern Republicans willing to pay a $175 registration fee. The South has become a vital part of any GOP presidential election effort as it sends more than a third of Republicans to Congress and most of the party's top leadership.
Correspondent Bruce Morton contributed to this report.