The Republican presidential nomination fight heads into its first real event this weekend with the Ames Straw Poll. Although not an actual primary, Ames has a winnowing effect on the Republican field. The straw poll results ended the campaigns of now Kansas Governor Sam Brownback in 2007 and Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander in 1999. Pictured above is supporters from the campaign of 2007 Straw Poll winner Mitt Romney.
ChrossTalk breaks down the straw poll with our predictions of the first and second place finishers. We’ll try to expand this list throughout the day to get more perspectives for you to peruse.
Jeremy Lerman: With respect to its ability to predict campaign success, the Ames Straw Poll shouldn’t be ignored. Of the five Ames polls that have been held, three of the five winners went on to win the Iowa Caucuses. Two of those three later captured the Republican nomination. I can’t help but be both troubled and amused by the idea that Michele Bachmann could mispronounce “chutzpah” – an egregious offense to even the most casual employer of Yiddish diction – and still be considered a serious contender for the Republican nomination. Luckily for her, Boca Raton is not the bellwether for the Christian conservative base.
Bachmann is the frontrunner. Given Romney’s calculated decision not to pour money into Iowa, Bachmann’s formiddable contender is Ron Paul. Both Paul and Bachmann are associated with the Tea Party. Make no mistake, these are two very different candidates. When Paul advocates for small government, he walks the walk. We’re talking about a guy who refuses to participate in the lucrative congressional pension and healthcare plans because they are “immoral.” Bachmann espouses smaller government while simultaneously wearing her evangelical politics on her sleeve. While the contradiction is clear to many, it will play well for her in Iowa. The evangelical base likes lower taxes and fewer regulations – as long as they are promised that the administration will use the power of the federal government to ban abortions, prevent gay marriage and censor heterodoxical speech. While Paul is well funded and incredibly well organized, Bachmann’s broader appeal and superior ability to garner media attention gives her the slight edge over Paul at this point.”
Chip Lebovitz: Analysis of the Ames Straw Poll hinges on the fact that the poll is a test of organization. The basic premise of the straw poll is to bus in as many supporters as possible to Ames, Iowa to improve a candidates vote total. Ames is unique in that it is the arguably the only presidential nominating event where campaign organization transcends campaign support. With nearly all-major GOP figures remaining on the sidelines, it is unlikely that event itself will swing large numbers of voters
Tim Pawlenty therefore will win the straw poll. While Pawlenty has gained little traction in the national polls, the former governor has the strongest ground game in Iowa. He has the largest number of Iowa county chairs – 29. He has the largest staff in Iowa and had already spent $50,000 on buses for supporters before announcing earlier this month to shift money from T.V ads to buy more buses. Furthermore it’s important to count the desperation factor. Pawlenty needs an Ames victory badly to remain a credible candidate, especially with the entrance of Texas Governor Rick Perry into the race. Campaign discipline will trump the former Minnesota governor’s enthusiasm gap and bring home the title for T-Paw.
Second place will come down to Michele Bachmann’s nascent enthusiasm versus Ron Paul’s strategic investment. Bachmann maybe flying high in the national polls but Paul bought the prized best booth location and is also reported to be going all out, busing 30 members of the family Paul to Ames on Saturday. So while Iowan-born Bachmann may have the home field advantage, at Ames organization is king, and Paul’s extra efforts will snag him second place.
One bonus pick for the road. Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum comes in a surprisingly close fourth due to the social conservative nature of Iowa, effectively ending Herman Cain’s campaign.
Ross Freiman-Mendel: All of the candidates have serious baggage. Romney passed Obamacare in Massachusetts; Pawlenty was too moderate in Minnesota; Bachman seems an opportunist given her past voting record; and for now, Perry has not even announced.
On Saturday, Ron Paul will win the Ames Straw Poll. In order for him to be a serious contender, that needs to happen, and if it does, the whole dynamic of the race will change. No candidate will benefit more from the post-victory media and cash influx than Ron Paul. He demanded balanced budgets and spending cuts before the Tea Party and his conservative ideals were “in.” No politician has been more clairvoyant: he predicted the housing bubble in 2003 and the downgrade well before S&P made its determination (he refuses to gloat). Paul supporters are notoriously motivated (only 49 percent would vote for another Republican nominee) in part because of his mass appeal. College students, disheartened Republicans, and libertarians all relate to Paul’s central message – restore the gold standard, eliminate the Federal Reserve, spend less money, and reduce foreign entanglements. As with all elections, Ames requires devoted boots-on-the-ground. The Congressman has bused in 30 family members and secured the best tent location.
Though most expect her to place first, Bachmann will win a close second. She won a recent Rasmussen Iowa poll. Given the President and Congress’ approval rating, Bachman’s anti-Washington sentiments coupled with her stellar performance at the June 13 New Hampshire debate should serve her well. More than anything, Bachman has gained traction with voters. She’s like a qualified Herman Cain (who most agree won the New Hampshire debate). Both convey their ideas exceedingly well, but her resume is more fit for both the primaries themselves and a Commander-in-Chief.
In the spirit of the straw poll, here’s a picture of an Ames delicacy – fried macaroni and cheese.
All personal views expressed here are the writers own and are in no way representative of the institutions at which they work.