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Iowa straw poll provides first test for 2012 wannabes

By MIKE GLOVER and PHILIP ELLIOTT - Associated Press
August 13, 2011

Republican presidential candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty campaigns at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, Aug. 12, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

After months of laying the groundwork, the first test of the Republican presidential candidates‘ viability is finally here.

Saturday’s Iowa Straw Poll marks the first time Republican voters weigh in on the GOP presidential field with ballots and comes just as Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was to enter the campaign during a visit to another early nominating state.

The nonbinding results in Ames, Iowa, were likely to foreshadow the coming months here in the leadoff state.

“The Iowa Straw Poll is the first measurable proving ground for our Republican candidates for president,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn said.

After that, just four months remain before the leadoff Iowa caucuses.

Mitt Romney leads national polls and many states’ surveys for the chance to challenge President Barack Obama next fall. But there is no shortage of rivals looking to emerge as the top alternative to the former Massachusetts governor, who lost the GOP nomination in 2008.

The candidates with the most to lose were Minnesotans who were competing to fill the role of a Romney alternative: Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Rep. Michele Bachmann. The pair clashed during Thursday’s debate in Ames: Bachmann said Pawlenty “sounds a lot like Barack Obama if you ask me”; Pawlenty said his rival posts “a record of misstating and making false statements.”

Pawlenty, who has been languishing in early Iowa polls, is out to prove he’s a strong player in the GOP race with a victory, while Bachmann hopes to build on momentum she’s enjoyed since entering the race this summer.

“For some people, this is make or break,” tea party activist Ryan Rhodes said.

Nine candidates are on the ballot in voting that runs for six hours during the daylong political festival on the campus of Iowa State University that doubles as a fundraiser for the Iowa GOP.

They include Romney, who won the straw poll four years ago but isn’t actively competing this time, and former Utah Gov. John Huntsman, who has been bypassing Iowa almost entirely in his hunt for the nomination. Neither was scheduled to be in the state; both spent Friday in New Hampshire.

Perry and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — who made a splash Friday when she visited the state fair — aren’t on the ballot, but their supporters are waging write-in campaigns that could outpace candidates who have spent months trying to line up supporters to participate.

Others on the list, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and businessman Herman Cain, hope for surprise showings.

“Part of it is whether the message resonates, but the bottom line is you better be pretty well organized,” Iowa Christian Alliance head Steve Scheffler said.

On the Iowa State campus, a circus-like atmosphere was in the making, with campaigns putting up giant tents for live music and tangy barbecue to court activists. Between the entertainers, candidates had one last shot to pitch for votes.

Republicans wouldn’t speculate how many people will spend $30 each to attend the event, but turnout in past has ranged from 14,000 to 23,000.

The straw poll has a mixed record of predicting the outcome of the precinct caucuses.

In the last election, Romney won the straw poll, but the big news was the surprising second-place showing of Mike Huckabee. Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses, but dropped from the race soon after. John McCain, who eventually won the nomination, didn’t compete in the straw poll and finished in 10th place.

Poor showings usually force some candidates — mostly those who are not well-known and are struggling to raise money — to abandon their bids, and that could happen this year, too.

“What it is, is a winnowing process and that might happen to Pawlenty if he doesn’t do well,” said Republican strategist Rich Galen. “It sort of serves as a filter to clean out the candidates who probably shouldn’t be there in the first place.”

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3 Responses to Iowa straw poll provides first test for 2012 wannabes

  1. Sandune

    August 13, 2011 at 10:14 am

    I have to admit that my vote would be given to Ron Paul. Gosh I’ve been writing him in for many years but when I see what the GOP comes up with, back I go to Congressman Paul. But come November in 2012 it is good chance the Christians will run me over to President Obama.

    It’s not fair that the government be run by any level of Christians when not all Americans are Christians. I do not want a Vatican in D.C.

  2. Sandune

    August 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    I came home from the pool to hear the speeches being made by the candidates. As they go down the line, they give no credit to the American founders having done the impossible by declaring a Republic over a colony extended from England. They all, without exception, looked to the sky giving God the credit for our existence. Then one after the other they tore into the legislation done by the Democrats that destroyed our nation and removed our freedoms. Every damn one of them were in some form of government and equally responsible for the mess we are in today. This is what I mean when I say that Christians have no problem with outright lying when it is done to their advantage. They all must realize how ignorant their Republican voters are to stand there and cheer their every word.

    Could it be that not a single person in that huge audience has a clue what evolution is all about? Did they figure that humans simply were born just waiting for God to instill them with intelligence?

    Some of them ended up in government where they helped themselves to the people’s money and now they want to stop the giveaways for anyone else. This is not unusual for any Christian to understand because they have been living off of government handouts starting when they all bought their homes, and paid for the education of themselves and their kids. They consider themselves the chosen white people of America.

    The movement behind this pro Christian march comes from the Evangelical Fundamentalists who will not recognize anyone of color, anyone of a homosexual bent and anyone who wants the choice of their family size. It is a control that was perfected by Adolph Hitler.

    Bachmann is now screaming a promise to change the U.S. Supreme Court to be all Christian justices so that no liberal or anti-Christian law will ever again be possible. She shoots down equality as if it is simply a force from Satan.

    This is a movement of ignorant fools absolutely terrified of giving any America the choice of their own making, I just wish all who reads this to read the agenda of the Inquisitions being spread throughout Europe. They actually paid family members to turn in their own relatives as sinners and they collected many dollars for doing this. Christians have no character and will turn in their own mothers for money. I’ve seen this all over Europe and saw it in Salem MA when their own mothers were burned alive as witches.

  3. Sandune

    August 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    I should add that if any of you want to hear these speeches, don’t bother with MSNBC as they have brought in a bunch of women who sound like poorly educated teenagers. They all want so sound like Palin and my ears cant take it. I went to CSPAN and the voices were better and no commercials were found.