The Republican Party of Iowa gets its first bite at the apple today, raking in money at the Ames straw poll event. Six presidential candidates who paid for space at the venue will speak to the crowd, along with five GOP elected officials and state party chairman Matt Strawn. I’ve posted the speaking schedule below and will update this post throughout the day.
Nine candidates will appear on the straw poll ballot: the eight who debated Thursday night plus Representative Thad McCotter of Michigan. Voting closes at 4 pm, but it may take Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz a long time to tabulate results because of the large number of expected write-ins. Speaking of Schultz, I noticed on the Secretary of State’s website yesterday that he has put out only one press release since his embarrassing smackdown of former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman two months ago. The Iowa Ethics and Campaign Disclosure Board dismissed an ethics complaint that the Iowa Democratic Party filed regarding that press release.
Any comments about the spectacle are welcome in this thread, especially first-person accounts from Bleeding Heartland users who are in Ames today.
Which candidates, if any, will receive fewer votes than write-ins Sarah Palin, Texas Governor Rick Perry or “Rick Parry,” the name Stephen Colbert’s Super PAC is pushing? I expect McCotter will have a tough day. Don’t know who is supporting him besides former Iowa House Speaker Chris Rants, and he doesn’t have a huge following in the Iowa GOP anymore, to put it mildly. When McCotter bid for space at the straw poll, he probably wasn’t expecting to be left out of the Fox News debate. That plus the lack of time and money he’s spent in Iowa puts him at a big disadvantage.
If former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty does better than expected in the straw poll, he will owe thanks to a couple of outside groups. The American Petroleum Institute’s Iowa Energy Forum and Strong America Now both have organizational ties to the Pawlenty campaign. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register discussed those connections and the outside groups’ work in greater detail here. Four years ago, Mike Huckabee’s Ames straw poll effort got a huge assist from Americans for Fair Taxation, helping Huckabee finish a close second to Mitt Romney.
UPDATE: News from the day is after the jump.
Iowa Straw Poll Speaking Schedule:
Noon- Program Begins
12:15- Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn delivers remarks
12:20- Governor Terry Branstad delivers remarks
12:30- Chairman Strawn welcomes all candidates on stage (press shot)
12:40- Senator Rick Santorum delivers remarks
1:00- Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds delivers remarks
1:15- Congressman Ron Paul delivers remarks
1:40- Congressman Steve King delivers remarks
1:50- Governor Tim Pawlenty delivers remarks
2:10- Senator Chuck Grassley delivers remarks
2:20- Congresswoman Michele Bachmann delivers remarks
2:40- Congressman Tom Latham delivers remarks
2:50- Congressman Thaddeus McCotter delivers remarks
3:15- Herman Cain delivers remarks
Straw Poll voting closes at 4pm. Chairman Matt Strawn will deliver the Straw Poll results on stage immediately after they’ve been tabulated.
UPDATE: Strawn introduced Branstad to the crowd as the man who put us “back in black”; cue AC/DC song. Ain’t that the truth. I still think Governor Chet Culver would have been re-elected against Bob Vander Plaats.
Meanwhile in South Carolina, Texas Governor Rick Perry told the crowd at a Redstate blog convention, “I declare to you today as a candidate for President of the United States.” Check out these photos of Perry as a young man.
Sarah Palin said during her Iowa State Fair visit that she will decide by September whether she is running. I think she will pass on the race and keep her Fox News contract.
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum told the crowd he has visited 50 Iowa cities and towns in the past few weeks. He has raised far less money than most of the other candidates, and I see him as the Joe Biden in this GOP field. He got a big response from the crowd today when he talked about his record on abortion; I thought he had a pretty good debate on Thursday too.
Ron Paul also talked about abortion in his straw poll speech, saying we must protect all life, because life comes before liberty, all life is precious, and we can’t play God. He described the PATRIOT Act as an attack on American liberties and stuck with his longstanding criticism of the war in Iraq. Time to bring the troops home, we’re broke. A larger crowd showed up to hear Paul than Santorum.
Several Republicans on twitter have said the line to get into Bachmann’s tent is an hour long. Branstad’s communications director Tim Albrecht commented, “I have been to 4 #iastrawpoll events and never seen a line as long as Bachmann’s.”
Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman is campaigning in New Hampshire today. Speaking to CNN reporter Mark Preston, he predicted Bachmann, Paul and Pawlenty would finish first, second and third at the straw poll. I am not convinced Pawlenty will make the top three.
LATER UPDATE: O.Kay Henderson posted highlights from the Santorum, Paul and Pawlenty speeches here, and from the Bachmann, McCotter and Cain speeches here. As always, Pawlenty talked about his track record of “results,” not just speeches. We’ll see if his bus tour around central Iowa during the past ten days produced any results in Ames.
Someone in the Bachmann camp told Ben Smith of Politico that Bachmann has given away roughly 6,000 tickets to the straw poll. Ron Paul’s people claim to have given away about 4,000 tickets. If anywhere close to that number of people vote for Bachmann and Paul, the third-place candidate will be way behind. Pawlenty “should” finish third based on the money and energy he’s spent organizing for this even, but I’m not convinced he will place third.
Cain received a standing ovation for his speech (“They say I don’t have any foreign policy experience. And the guy we have now has?”), but he got stuck going last, and many people would already have voted. I think he will be closer to the McCotter/Huntsman end of things.
LATE UPDATE: Secretary of State Schultz discussed the write-in votes with Radio Iowa. All votes for Stephen Colbert’s preferred candidate, “Rick Parry,” were counted as votes for Rick Perry. Schultz did not reveal how many people voted for “Parry,” but he said that wasn’t the only way Perry’s name was misspelled. The 218 “scattered” write-in votes included some ballots for Sarah Palin and some for fictitious characters, like the Iowa State Fair’s butter cow.