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The Gazette KCRG
Posted August 10, 2011
Candidates serving up more than politics at Iowa straw poll

By JOSH NELSON

josh.nelson@wcfcourier.com

AMES — It’s summer in Iowa, which means it’s hot, sticky and humid. On Saturday, thousands of people will spend their day milling about without much shade in acres of concrete parking lots at the Iowa Straw Poll.

But know this potential poll voters, the politicians feel your pain. When gates open, several campaigns and interest groups will be offering entertainment and food in an effort to alleviate the suffering of attendees. Its’ a long-standing tradition for the late summer poll.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders

“We’ve long said the Straw Poll is a mix of the Iowa State Fair and a national political convention,” said Casey Mills, a spokesman for the Republican Party of Iowa.

While voting and speakers take place inside Hilton Coliseum, outside is a tent city for politicians and advocacy groups. A prevalent sight at many of those locations will be 2008 Caucus winner Mike Huckabee, who plays bass and had his own band Capital Offense at the 2007 poll.

Huckabee will jam with bands at the tents of Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Georgia businessman Herman Cain.

The entertainment helps to calm the nerves and add to the festive atmosphere of the poll, said Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Huckabee’s daughter and a senior adviser for Pawlenty.

“Coming to the straw poll is a pretty big commitment for a lot of people, particularly the people who are further away from Ames,” said Sanders, who worked on her father’s 2008 campaign. “The candidates and campaigns want to make it fun and painless as possible.”

Aside from an omnipresent Huckabee, Cain is going to have Iowa bands Kat Daddy 55 and One Way Quartet. Pawlenty is bringing local favorites The Nadas and SONICFLOOd, a Christian worship band from Tennessee.

Santorum will have “Santorum Summer Dance Party,” with The Crickets, Buddy Holly’s backing band and the son of Jiles Perry Richardson, also known as the Big Bopper.

At Michele Bachmann’s tent, well-known country star Randy Travis will be joined by other country musicians Richie McDonald and Tim Rushlow and Christian music artist Charles Billingsley.

Music isn’t the only distraction. Bachmann will have an air conditioned tent with barbeque, drinks and Paws and Effect, a nonprofit that trains service dogs for combat veterans.

Cain will have Godfather’s Pizza, of which he was once the CEO. Santorum is bring home canned peach jam made from peach trees back home. Pawlenty is also bringing barbeque from Famous Dave’s and Dairy Queen Blizzards for dessert.

The only campaign without a lot of flashy entertainment will be Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who will have a low key band and an area for political discourse. Speakers include Barry Goldwater Jr., said Drew Ivers, Paul’s Iowa director.

“We think its a political event so it should have a political atmosphere,” Ivers said.

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