Michigan’s Mackinac Island is the go to spot for 2016 GOP Presidential contenders this weekend, with six of the eleven top candidates making appearances here as part of the Michigan Republican Party’s Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference.
One aspect of this year’s conference that looks much different than year’s past: candidates efforts to win the famed straw poll are immensely secretive for the most part.
Voting in the Detroit News/MIRS Mackinac Presidential Straw Poll ends at 10 p.m. tonight with results expected between 10:30 and 11.
As opposed to past years where candidates waged straw poll wars as intense as they were public, this year many of the contenders are counting on secret vote whipping, surrogates, and even a Political Action Committee.
Candidates on the island include Sen. Ted Cruz, Gov. Scott Walker, Carly Fiorina, Sen. Rand Paul, Gov. John Kasich, and former Gov. Jeb Bush.
Carly Fiorina is hot off an impressive debate performance, but the former HP CEO needs to beef up campaign operations to match her rise in the polls. Because of a lack of campaign infrastructure, Carly is counting on support from a PAC backing her, “Carly For America,” to organize volunteers on the island and help win the straw poll.
Bush is counting on Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette’s political operation to get votes for the straw poll and has an army of campaign volunteers on the island to help shore up support. Schuette is well versed in this kind of thing and is a valuable asset to Bush.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich is working with allies of Arlan Meekhof, Michigan’s Senate Majority Leader. Meekhof operatives have been witnessed telling people not to forget to vote for Kasich in the straw poll and that they consider it very important. They are also leading Kasich’s volunteer efforts on the island.
The Rubio campaign’s secret straw poll effort was hampered Thursday night when one of his top aides was heard at a Mackinac bar organizing straw poll vote whipping while drinking heavily. The aide even went after one of Sen. Rand’s Paul’s top people in an altercation that has made international headlines.
As one might expect, Paul and Cruz operations are pushing their people for the straw poll, but not as publicly as recent years.
Check back later for full straw poll results.