Could Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s regional primary prove decisive in the presidential primary nominating process? 

Kemp is doing all he can to build up voter interest in the SEC Primary next March 1 when six Southern states will choose more than 1,000 delegates to the Republican and Democrat national conventions. When he proposed the idea last year, Kemp dubbed it the SEC Primary, named after the high-powered Southeastern Conference of collegiate sports, a smart move for name recognition. Five other states agreed to take part: Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

In launching the effort, Kemp pointed to the South’s growth that has increased the electoral votes of this region. He said he believed if a candidate does well in the regional primary, that candidate could well be on the way to securing the nomination of his or her party.

To fan interest, Kemp came up with Georgia’s own straw poll similar to that of Iowa which for years has made news across the country. He organized the Peanut Poll at the Georgia National Fair in Perry, Oct. 8-18, giving visitors a chance to cast votes for their favorite presidential candidates.

The Peanut Poll immediately became the largest straw poll in America, Kemp announced, tallying 28,493 votes versus the comparatively paltry 8,837 total for the Iowa State Fair straw poll in August. But then, Iowa only has a little more than 1 million population, a tenth of Georgia’s 10 million plus. However, there obviously was strong interest in the Peanut Poll by Georgia fair-goers. Kemp said the objective was to inform Georgians about the SEC Primary “when our voters will have the chance to play a critical role as an early voting state to influence the presidential nominating process for both parties.”

Incidentally, even though the Peanut Poll was not scientific at all, remarkably the results were fairly close to the findings of scientific polling firms.

On the Republican side, the Peanut Poll had Ben Carson first with 36.9 percent, Donald Trump next with 34.8 percent, and undecided third at 6.3 percent, then Carly Fioriana 5.2, Marco Rubio 4.6, Ted Cruz 3.3, Jeb Bush 2.7, Mike Huckabee 2.6, Rand Paul 1 percent, and the seven other candidates with less than one percent each. Among Democrats, Hillary Clinton led with 48.1 percent, followed by undecided at 22.4 percent, Bernie Sanders 17.8 percent and all others in low single digits.

Compare the Peanut Poll’s Republican preferences to the latest Georgia poll, WSB/Landmark on Sept. 23, showing Trump ahead at 31 percent, Carson 18 percent, Fiorina 13, Rubio 9, Bush and Cruz tied at 8 percent, Huckabee 4, John Kasich 2 percent and Rand Paul 1 percent. An earlier Fox 5/Morris News poll had Trump at 34 percent, Carson 25, Bush 11 and the next closest candidates in single digits. And these polls fairly well mirror the national surveys.

Back to the question: could the SEC Primary prove decisive in the presidential nominating process? It could indeed.

 

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