There was plenty of media buzz on Saturday over the straw poll, most of it wrong, but a couple of results came through very clear.
First-pledging to abide by the endorsement still matters to Republican activists. Jeff Johnson and Dave Thompson, to no one's surprise, dominated the gubernatorial straw poll. Taking third was the write in campaign for the worst kept secret of Marty Seifert, whose personal campaign style is built around getting delegates to support him in the endorsement.
On the bottom half of the poll results were Rep Kurt Zellers, whose conditional promise to abide by the endorsement hurt him, and Rob Farnsworth who is an unknown (but gave an impressive speech). Coming in last was Scott Honour, whose vote total puts him in the position of needing to make his intentions clear; either promise to abide or stop pretending to court the delegates.
Second-the race for US Senate on the GOP side is still very wide open. Sen Julianne Ortman and Mike McFadden came in 1 and 2 respectively, but perennial candidate for whatever office is open Harold Shudlick pulled out a surprising third place. This isn't a measure of Harold's actual popularity or a pity vote, but an easy place to park your straw ballot for undecideds. Heck, I voted for myself on the Senate ballot just because I couldn't decide on a candidate.
The Senate race has the potential to become a major decision point for the MN GOP next spring. As Andy already pointed out, the biggest factor in the race bar none is money; Sen Franken has a huge war chest and only a similar money blitz will keep the race competitive. So MN Conservatives will have to decide if Mike McFadden, who has shown he can raise money almost as fast as liberals can spend it, will be conservative enough, or if they will hold to principle and give Ortmann the nod. Again, Andy nails the meat of this matter--either McFadden or Ortmann will vote against Obamacare and either one will be another vote for a GOP Senate majority leader. Getting control of the Senate is critical, and it doesn't matter if the 51st vote is a RINO or someone to the right of Ron Paul.
In the overall picture, the straw poll was a chance for delegates and alternates (unseated alternates were allowed to vote, meaning a much larger than normal pool of voters) to weigh in on the state of both races. The results were non-binding, but a little more meaningful than the rigged circus of the Iowa straw poll that we use to narrow down the field for presidential candidates. The candidates get a chance to assess their campaigns, figure out how well they are doing at appealing to the GOP activists who will do the bulk of the work for the eventual nominee next year. And as a nice bonus, the GOP got a whole lot of free media over the weekend and some carryover this week. All in all, that is a good day's work.