Hobnobs: Are We Pimping Out Our Candidates?

By Mickey Spencer

I have been watching the political scene here in central Florida more closely than ever. I know a lot of you have been scrutinizing it as well. We all sense the urgent need to get involved. However, we’re also  realizing some of the aspects of the political scene that are a good part of why we’ve stayed away from it in the past.

Specifically, I’m referring to the people who do everything in their power to turn educating and informing the electorate about their options into a money making venture. These groups of people who do this would likely do the proverbial Good Samaritan act of helping an elderly lady cross the street… and then they’d hand her a bill for their services.

The groups of people who are running these Hobnobs and Straw Polls in central Florida will clearly do anything at all in order to make a dollar. I won’t go into detail about the names of these groups, but suffice it to say that most area chambers of commerce sponsor one. A few clubs and associations sponsor them as well. And central Florida is not the only area of the nation where these groups are doing this.

I’m not sure the voting public is aware of the details of these Hobnobs and Straw Polls, but allow me to share some of the details about the money they’re taking in with their efforts to “pimp out” the candidates willing to allow their campaigns to have this money extorted from them. On the list I have, some of these groups are charging as much as $500 per table to attend these events. These table costs cover usually between 2 and 4 people. Some are charging as much as $31 per person in order to vote in their Straw Poll. Occasionally (and I stress OCCASIONALLY) that price includes a dinner.

I did some research on the term Hobnob.

According to The Free Dictionary, the word history for Hobnob is as follows:

Hobnobbing with our social betters can be a hit-or-miss proposition, a fact that has an etymological justification. The verb hobnob originally meant “to drink together” and occurred as a varying phrase, hob or nob, hob-a-nob, or hob and nob, the first of which is recorded in 1763. This phrasal form reflects the origins of the verb in similar phrases that were used when two people toasted each other. The phrases were probably so used because hob is a variant of hab and nob of nab, which are probably forms of have and its negative. In Middle English, for example, one finds the forms habbe, “to have,” and nabbe, “not to have.” Hab or nab, or simply hab nab, thus meant “get or lose, hit or miss,” and the variant hob-nob also meant “hit or miss.” Used in the drinking phrase, hob or nob probably meant “give or take”; from a drinking situation hob nob spread to other forms of chumminess.

According to The Free Dictionary, the current definition of Hobnob is as follows:

  1. 1. to socialize or talk informally
  2. 2. Obsolete to drink (with)

I understand some of these groups need to pay for the facilities they’ve rented to cover the costs. However, in speaking with some of these groups, they’re quite clear that Hobnobs and Straw Polls are their biggest fund raisers of the year. And if the candidates and attendees are covering all of the sponsoring group’s costs, is it false advertising to claim that group is sponsoring the event?

So when you see that this candidate or that candidate did well at a Hobnob/Straw Poll event, ask yourself how much that candidate’s campaign paid to the “sponsoring” group in order to get enough people to attend in order to do well in their Straw Poll.

A much better gauge to judge how well candidates are performing prior to the primary elections (and later the general elections) is to see how well they’re doing at the candidate forums where attendance (and voting) is free… or at the very least, no cost to vote and ONLY enough to enter the event to cover the costs.

Also ask yourself about the integrity of candidates who openly brag about having won this Hobnob/Straw Poll or another. If they’re willing to have so much money exchanged for votes leading up to an election, do they really feel that badly about the concept of bribery? And if bought votes mean that little to them, do they deserve your vote?


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