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The Gazette KCRG
Posted August 10, 2011

OK, it’s time to think about how this straw poll in Ames is going to turn out.

The big question is: At the end of the day, who’s No. 1?

Not that it matters – at least not to those finishing No. 2 and lower in the poll of Iowa Republicans who’s schedules were open and were so motivated to uses a free ticket to hear free music and eat free food and, oh, by the way, cast a non-binding vote for their favorite candidate for their party’s presidential nomination nearly seven months before the real straw poll takes place at precinct caucuses and nearly a year before a nominee will be, uh, nominated.

Quick answer: I don’t know. But I can lay out any number of scenarios that along with a couple of bucks will buy you a decent cup of coffee at any of a number of local coffeehouses.

Ask any of the myriad Iowa political operatives who have been through straw polls and precinct caucuses and you’re likely to get a similar answer. Ask enough of those folks and you start to hear enough similar answers to start to think you’ve got a handle on the likely outcome.

And then someone says something like, “Unless Sarah Palin shows up in Ames.”

There you are, back at Square One.

Think you’ve got it figured out? Your best effort could win you a decent cup of coffee at my expense (Well, I’ll probably bill it to the boss — not The Boss, but my boss) at one of our fine local coffeehouses. Details later.

So, after covering countless rallies, round-tables and breakfast, lunch and dinner (supper?) speeches by the various candidates, a couple of things appear less murky than all the other things. Here’s my two cents’ worth (remember, I have to save the big bucks to buy coffee):

  1. Ron Paul seems to turn out as many people as any other candidate. The folks who show up at his rallies – which seem much more mainstream and Republican than the improvisational, free-spirited, Democratic-like rallies of four years ago – appear more enthusiastic and committed than folks at other candidates’ events.
  2. Bachmann is a close second in this department. Her supporters are enthusiastic and she’s turning out some good-sized crowds. Although I recognize many people at her events from other GOP events, there are a lot of new faces. Most likely – and organizers of some Bachmann events have confirmed this – they’re not necessarily Republicans, but socially conservative evangelical Christians. Like Paul, Bachmann has some Tea Party appeal. Hers is of the “tea-vangelical” variety.
  3. Can Rick Santorum be the Huckabee of ’11? He doesn’t play the guitar, at least not that I know of, and he’s not as funny. But hey, he could host a cable television show.
  4. Unless he wins, Tim Pawlenty will lose. Well, duh, you say, but most anyone can spin any finish in the straw poll as a victory. However, “showing improvement” or a “top tier” finish won’t be good enough for the Rodney Dangerfield of the straw poll.
  5. Rick Perry is the wild card. The Americans for Rick Perry folks seem to be attracting a lot of attention wherever they show up even though their candidate isn’t a candidate. At least not yet. Perry is scheduled to speak at 1:30 pm in SOuth Caroline — that’s 12:30 our time — and that’s when the rain will begin to fall on the straw poll.
  6. Thaddeus McCotter hasn’t got a snowball’s chance in Texas of winning, but would make a great MC for the straw poll.

If you’ve got the straw poll figured out, let me know. Send me your predictions – order of finish, each candidate’s percentage of the straw poll votes and total number of votes and I’ll buy coffee for whoever comes closest.


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