Ames Straw Poll Predictions

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.

Photo Credit: Iowa Politics, Heather

All personal views expressed here are the writers own and are in no way representative of the institutions at which they work.

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22 responses to “Ames Straw Poll Predictions

  1. If someone gives me a ticket, I’ll go to Iowa and vote for Ron Paul.

  2. Jeremy, thanks for your incredibly incisive assessment. In my view, if the Republicans run Bachmann, they will give Obama the presidency for a second term. She is simply not mainstream enough, and actually scares a lot of people.

  3. RON PAUL, RON PAUL, RON PAUL ALREADY!!! There is no other contender, it is baffling after all we’ve gone through how anyone could contemplate voting for another establishment darling. This is the clear choice.

  4. Tony, it is not so baffling given the what the average voter has between the ears and how much of the world context they understand.

  5. I admire Paul but I think his problem is when he speaks about ending the Fed, the vast majority of people have no idea why that would improve their lives. Somehow, Paul (and for that matter all the candidates) have a hard time articulating a view that really, truly reaches people. Even Obama couldn’t do it… he basically offered generic hope and change and allowed himself to be the template onto which each person could paste their dreams. I can’t figure out how in a country of 350+ millions, we can’t find someone that actually speaks in clear, understandable, convincing language.

  6. Pingback: Ames Straw Poll Pundit Predictions | Politisite

  7. Concerned Citizen

    Count me a part of the Ron Paul fan-club as well. I can just imagine conservatives everywhere grimacing as he launches into yet another long-winded speech about the gold standard in a debate with Obama.

    More seriously, I think Paul will win the Straw Poll, but he can’t hold up in a long campaign. The two words that will be his undoing? Message discipline. For everything bad people say about Romney, that’s one area where he excels. Can’t get that man to stop talking about the economy.

    Also, still waiting for a response to my real BBA on the last “Talk.”

  8. Romney can talk about the economy all he wants but the libertarians among us will never forgive him RomneyCare. Lookin too Obamalicious for my taste. That particular emperor, like the currently reigning nobel prize winning compatriate, wears no clothes.

  9. By the way, Concerned, I forgot to mention that I completely support a return to the gold standard as just one in a potential basket of fiscally responsible maneuvers. No doubt that will further endear me to you.

  10. Concerned Citizen

    Hey, don’t worry, I definitely don’t want Romeny to be the nominee either. Far, far too electable for independent voters. RomneyCare was admirable, though. He would almost certainly make the best president out of any of them. What part of Obamenycare (thanks Tim Palwenty!), exactly, did you find objectionable? And Jennie, we can debate about the gold standard, but there’s no way it would ever happen (thankfully). Even if Ron Paul was swept into the White House against all odds, and controlled both houses of Congress, businesses everywhere would go, “Wait, WTF?!” andddddddddd they would finally ditch the Republican party for good.

  11. Concerned, you never fail to amaze me. In addition to the long list of your other estimable qualities, you have an uncanny ability to predict the future. You might be the only person I know who is capable of knowing in advance, exactly what “businesses everywhere” would do.

  12. Concerned Citizen

    Jennie, don’t be so modest! You can predict the future, too! Go back to the last “Talk” and look at your post when you said that we’d soon see QE3 and QE4 “for sure.” And you thought I wouldn’t notice you trying to give me all the credit, you clever fox, you.

  13. Sincere apologies, Concerned. I just realized that you are right.. I misspoke. You weren’t predicting the future with businesses everywhere going WTF ! You were simply reporting on the present!

    Oh, and BTW, I stand behind my guess that the QEs will be here before you know it. Hoping to be dead wrong.

  14. Concerned Citizen

    Sigh. I just don’t understand all the hate for the QE’s. I mean, we haven’t even seen inflation spike at all. We had deflation for at least a quarter under Obama! People will point to gas prices, but, no, that’s not real inflation. That’s unrest in the Middle East and growing demand from emerging economies. I especially liked in one of your earlier posts, Jennie, that you pointed to how much gas prices had risen under Obama, while failing to mention that the only reason gas prices was that the global financial crisis killed demand. Obama-era *policies* have not led to any spike in inflation (even though, according to Reinhart, Rogoff, Mankiw, Krugman, et al, it would be better if they had).

  15. Core inflation doesn’t take into account food and gas prices. What’s a Texas hick to do?
    Concerned, if we ever meet, I’m going to give you a big hug!

  16. Concerned Citizen

    Can you explain to me why you would want a return to the gold standard? A reliance on the gold standard is what made the Great Depression “Great.”

  17. Concerned,

    I need to address two different points of contention. The first is your definition of “inflation” and “deflation” as the simple rising and falling of prices. If you are arguing that at least a quarter of deflation has occured under Obama, that could be true, but that is not necessarily the same thing as deflation. Milton Friedman argues that “most historians and economists are conditioned to believe that steadily and sharply falling prices must result in depression…for they have overlooked the fact that in the natural course of events, when government and the banking system do not increase the money supply very rapidly, free-market capitalism will result in an increase of production and economic growth so great that as to swamp the increase of the money supply. Prices will fall, and the consequences will not be depression or stagnation, but prosperity (since costs are falling too), economic growth, and the spread of the increased living standard to all consumers.” In other words, in a healthy market, prices can fall as a result of supply and demand. In a depressed market, prices can fall because demand is less robust (no one is spending money.) But neither of those is deflation. Deflation is when the money supply contracts, less money is chasing the same number of goods, and thus goods become cheaper because each dollar is worth more. I would submit that there is no way that deflation as I have just defined it is occuring since interest rates have not gone up significantly, but that any decrease in prices is due to depressed demand. Unemployment is high and wages are stagnant, so fewer people have less money to spend on goods and services. It is very possible that this is going on at the same time that there is high inflation (an expansion of the money supply,) and I believe it is highly likely that this is the case.

    The second issue I have is with your assertion that “the gold standard made the Great Depression ‘great.'” I’ve heard this talking point on numerous occasions. It has a nice ring to it but, from a logical standpoint, makes little sense because the Great Depression occured AFTER the gold standard had effectively ended with the creation of the Federal Reserve in 1917, over a decade before the Depression. Yes, the gold standard was still in nominal existence until it was eliminated by Nixon, but by that time our fiat currency was the de facto law of the land, which the government helped foster through loose government enforcement of the gold ratios that banks were supposedly required to possess. The Great Depression was the culmination of very loose credit in the 1920’s, and was thus facilitated by bad monetary policy. Much like Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke have done for the last few decades, the 1920’s triggered a large and unsustainable credit boom (a bubble.) Inflation was very high and people were circumspect regarding the real value of paper money. As a result, people flocked to the banks (there was a “run” on the banks) to exchange the currency for gold. It was discovered that the banks, in fact, were not capable of redeeming the paper in gold. Since the gold standard had been cast aside by the Fed in the 1920’s, the only effective regulator of inflation had been destroyed. The eventual recognition of high inflation demanded a neccessary contration of credit, precipitating the devastating effects of the depression. Most people attribute these effects to the rigidity of the gold standard, (gold was supposedly not “elastic” enough), but in fact it was quite the opposite. It was in fact the LACK of a gold standard (or any sort of commodity/metal standard) that unleashed the greed of the banks in the 20’s, allowing them to inflate and lend easy credit, collecting on the interest of more debt than anyone could ever possibly hope to pay back. Sound familiar?

  18. J, thank you for taking that one. You are far more eloquent than I.
    Concerned, rethink possible.

  19. Concerned Citizen

    J, I think we’re in different planes on the whole “inflation vs. deflation” thing. If prices fall, for any reason, that’s deflation. End of story. Doesn’t matter that it’s because of a depressed economy. Turning that logic around, that would mean an overheated economy causing inflation would not be “real” inflation. But look toward China: the Chinese central bank is desperately trying to get a growing inflation problem under control. Why? Too high economic growth. As for the “expansion of the money supply” canard, it’s true that the large expansion of the money supply we’ve seen would be inflationary under normal circumstances. Fortunately (or unfortunately depending where you sit), we are in a “liquidity trap,” with monetary policy constrained because the Fed is up against the zero-bound for interest rates. That’s why we haven’t seen inflation even though the Fed has added to the money supply (and, incidentally, why there is no crowding out of private investment after public borrowing; second stimulus anyone?). Also, your Friedman-esque take on deflation is quaint, but wrong-headed. Deflation *is* bad for the economy because no one wants to buy anything when there is deflation. Why buy a washing machine now if there is deflation; it will be cheaper next quarter, and still cheaper the quarter after. That’s why central banks fear deflation and that’s why deflation can derail an economy. All of this is superfluous, though. You logically cannot have falling prices and inflation, or slowly growing prices and very high inflation. Like, by definition, it cannot be true. Inflation is simply a term we use for the growth (positive or negative) in the price level!

    Now, as far as the gold standard is concerned, it most certainly was one of the biggest problems of the Great Depression. The Fed pursued tight money policies early in the depression; that’s the biggest reason the economy couldn’t recover. If you’d like to make the case that too-low capital ratios unleashed the orgy of risk that spelled doom in the 1920’s and in our current situation, I’m with you there. But that has nothing to do with the gold standard (and hopefully all of the good regulators empowered by the Dodd-Frank overhaul will be able to enforce tighter capital restrictions). Anyway, we’ve seen the efficacy of monetary policy in easing downturns; that’s why recessions were typically so mild after the Depression after being so wild before it.

    Obviously, I disagree with you, J, but I’d like to thank you for taking the time to present your arguments in toto, unlike some other people here who “don’t have time” or some nonsense.

  20. Concerned, one my favorite authors, Richard Powers, wrote, “When you’re sure of what you’re looking at, look harder.” It’s advice we should all keep in mind.

  21. Concerned Citizen,

    In a free market lower rates signal an increase in savings. If the supply of savings increases more than loans banks have little choice but to offer lower rates on deposits. Interest rates are near zero now, yet on a national and private level we have an enormous debt load and not enough savings or productivity to service it. The low interest rates are a result of government stimulus so there is no liquidity trap. The biggest problem is an unstable dollar.

    There is a ton of cash parked on the sidelines because of political, regulatory and monetary policy uncertainty. Everyone knows that you can’t print your way out of a recession so the smart play is to sit on your cash and wait. Inflation, already present in the US in the form of higher commodity prices especially gold will soar when capital begins to flow and money circulates.

    If all it takes is printing money to create wealth most of us would simply purchase a “money-printer” and never work again. It is only a matter of time before America’s creditors demand higher yields due to an increased risk to service our debt coupled with a blatant inflationist monetary policy.

    China’s “inflation” is an increase in productivity plus they are a creditor nation, which is another sign of their enormous productive capacity. Any inflation China has is due to their unwise policy of linking the RMB to the dollar.

    I do not know why anyone would lend money to our government for ten years with real returns being negative. But it won’t last much longer. Central banks are already beginning to buy gold.

    Also, Concerned Citizen you are completely wrong when you say “Why buy a washing machine now if there is deflation; it will be cheaper next quarter, and still cheaper the quarter after.” Think about the tech industry. If your assertion were true then people wouldn’t buy iPads and iPhones this year when they know next year they will get a lot more for their money? Last time I checked Apple’s revenue skyrocketed (as did their market cap) so I don’t think they “buy” your theory. Money simply facilitates trade. As John Tamny points out devaluing the dollar won’t make you wealthier the same as devaluing the foot won’t make you taller. Ultimately we exchange products for products. We need a stable dollar linked to gold.

  22. in·tel·li·gence
       [in-tel-i-juhns] Show IPA
    capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity; aptitude in grasping truths, relationships, facts, meanings, etc.
    manifestation of a high mental capacity: He writes with intelligence and wit.
    the faculty of understanding.
    knowledge of an event, circumstance, etc., received or imparted; news; information.

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