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The Gazette KCRG
Posted August 7, 2011
The Iowa Straw Poll: A PPL Combine

Robert Haus

I’ve been talking to a lot of friends from around the country over the past few weeks about the upcoming Iowa Straw Poll. Many have questions about the process of the Straw Poll, and many ask me about the impact the Straw Poll has on the caucus process in Iowa.

I’ve struggled for weeks to come up with a succinct way to explain this to those who follow politics, and for those who don’t. With the labor problems of the NFL now behind us, I think I’ve come up with a good analogy.

To me, the Straw Poll and the events leading up to it are much like the NFL Combine. The “National Invitational Camp” or NFL Scouting Combine is a huge media event that happens every February in Indianapolis. College athletes, mostly college football players, are allowed to attend by invitation only. The players perform grueling physical and mental tests in front of coaches, general managers and scouts. The scouting combine allows personnel directors to evaluate upcoming prospects, and performance during the combine affects draft status, salary and ultimately a player’s career.

Players currently in the NFL don’t have to participate in the NFL Combine. They get to wait until after the draft, when the rookies join the team’s training camps.

What an apt analogy. The NFL has the NFL Combine. We here in Iowa have the Professional Political League Combine, or PPL.

The coverage surrounding the NFL Combine has grown exponentially. The media attention given to the Iowa Straw Poll and the PPL has also increased over the years, and this year’s event will attract several hundred national and international media outlets.

Performance in the Straw Poll / PPL will also affect the Republican candidates’ “draft status” and their “professional careers.” Those that perform above expectation will see their draft status and pro prospects increase. Those that perform poorly will see their draft status plummet. In fact, those performing poorly probably won’t make it to the Republican’s training camp.

Those that do get to go on to training camp will join several veteran quarterbacks. Governor Romney, Governor Perry, and Governor Palin are all getting ready for full contact drills starting on August 14th.

Our “athletes” have been performing their grueling mental and physical workouts for weeks now. Senator Rick Santorum has moved his entire family to Iowa, and has embarked on a 50-city blocking and tackling tour. Governor Tim Pawlenty is running the the 3 Cone test through 23 Iowa cities in the weeks leading up to the Straw Poll / PPL. Congresswoman Bachmann is showing her speed and agility in the 40-yard dash through every available media channel in Iowa. Ron Paul continues to fire up his crowds with repeated bench press tests on monetary and fiscal policy.

Each of the candidates have pushed themselves physically and mentally in the last several weeks, and will continue to do so for the next six days. The NFL Combine puts each of the athletes through mental and cognitive tests to determine their aptitude for learning complex playbooks. The PPL Combine puts our “athletes” through a similarly grinding experience, testing their ultimate fitness for office.

I often look on in awe of college and professional football players. Their speed, size, toughness and agility amaze me. I share the same view of our “athletes” that run for President. They are tough, they’re physically strong, they’re mentally prepared, and only the strongest make it to the top level. I’ve often noted that the process of running for President is a grueling and demanding one…and the only thing that adequately prepares a candidate for the most demanding and grueling job on the planet, being President of the United States.

The culmination of the PPL Combine is the voting next Saturday, August 13, in Ames Iowa. For the record, I’m helping the Republican Party of Iowa with the event inside of Hilton Coliseum, as I did four years ago. I would encourage everyone who has an interest in helping to choose the next President of the United States to attend. It plans to be a day filled with free entertainment, great speeches, and a healthy dose of Iowa pride.

For those who can’t attend, the PPL Combine, like its big cousin the NFL Combine, will be televised. It won’t be on ESPN, but rather the PPL Network…Fox, C-SPAN, our great Iowa television stations, as well as the major broadcast networks.

Tune in, or better yet, attend in person. Watch these athletes as they finish their workouts. As they come down off their PPL Combine stage inside of Hilton, give them a hearty cheer. Tell them you appreciate their skills, and their commitment.

Even if they don’t get to Training Camp, they’ve excelled as what they do, and they’ve given it their all. They will have left it “all on the field” as players often say, and we should tell them thank you.

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