Iowa Straw Poll — Ames — August 13, 2011

The Republican Party of Iowa Straw Poll in Ames, scheduled this year for August 13, 2011, has assumed almost as much importance as the Iowa caucuses themselves in campaigns for the Republican presidential nomination (2007, 1999).  The Straw Poll is mega-event fundraiser for the state party with the atmosphere of a three-ring circus.  It is an important organizational test for the campaigns, and they plan their activities for months in advance.  Tickets for the event cost $30, but many of the campaigns buy blocks of tickets and give them away.  Buses bring in supporters from around the state, and there is food, entertainment and speeches.  As in 2007, when the McCain and Giuliani campaigns declined to participate, this year several of the top tier candidates are skipping the Straw Poll event, but it still is being closely watched and could winnow or reshuffle the field.

Derek Flowers, who was a regional field staffer on Romney's 2007-08 campaign, started as the RPI's Straw Poll coordinator on May 1, 2011.  Party officials met with representatives of nine campaigns and potential campaigns (Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Karger, Moore, Paul, Pawlenty, Romney and Santorum) on May 19, 2011 to start the process. 

On June 23 representatives of the campaigns gathered to bid for spaces, the minimum bid being $15,000.  Tensions developed as a result of a person who had a bidding paddle but would not divulge the candidate she represented.  The other representatives vigorously objected to not knowing who they would be bidding against.  After almost an hour of discussion outside the meeting room with all other representatives threatening to "walk," the unknown candidate's representative finally was able to reach her client and permission was given to name him.  It turned out to be Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (MI), who had been making noises about a possible campaign.  Ultimately six candidates/possible candidates bid for spaces: Bachmann, Cain, Paul, Pawlenty, Santorum and McCotter.  The Paul campaign put in the highest bid, $31,000, for the spot which the Romney campaign occupied in 2007. 

Vendor sites were also available, and a range of interest groups participated. Americans for Rick Perry, a 527 group, had reportedly looked into a vendor site, but the party "chose not to allow issue advocacy groups specifically designed to promote a candidate/potential candidate to reserve space." 

The party's state central committee announced on July 23 that a total of nine candidates would appear on the Straw Poll ballot; the six with spaces, plus Gingrich, Huntsman and Romney.

In the weeks leading up to the Straw Poll there was a lot of candidate travel in Iowa.  Pawlenty did a "Road to Results" tour in an RV, Santorum launched a three-week "Courage to Fight for American Values" tour, Cain did a "Common Sense Solutions" tour, and Bachmann branded her events with a "Join Me in Ames!" tag.

Two other events also drew the candidates around the time of the Straw Poll.  The Iowa Republican Party Presidential Debate occurred on August 11 at Iowa State University in Ames.  The Iowa State Fair, which runs August 11-21, kicks off with a parade on August 10 in downtown Des Moines, beginning at 6:15 p.m..  According to a press release, "Spectators will be able to watch an estimated 200 floats, animals, vehicles, novelty and performing units."  Several presidential campaigns were represented in the parade, although Newt Gingrich was the only major candidate to march (Fred Karger also marched).  Additionally, most of the candidates spent time at the Fair itself, stopping by the Republican Party booth to greet  fairgoers, speaking at the soap box, enjoying some of the food, and viewing the butter sculptures.


                            special Straw Poll sites...
(site launched May 13, 2011)
(site launched June 22, 2011)


2011 Straw Poll Full Results (Votes, %)
1. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (4,823, 28.55%)
2. Congressman Ron Paul (4,671, 27.65%)
3. Governor Tim Pawlenty (2,293, 13.57%)
4. Senator Rick Santorum (1,657, 9.81%)
5. Herman Cain(1,456, 8.62%)
6. Governor Rick Perry (718, 3.62%) write-in
7. Governor Mitt Romney (567, 3.36%)
8. Speaker Newt Gingrich (385, 2.28%)
9. Governor Jon Huntsman (69, 0.41%)
10. Congressman Thad McCotter (35, 0.21%) 
Scattering (218, 1.30 %) Includes all those receiving votes at less than one-percent that were not on the ballot.

...send your Straw Poll announcements: action08 @ gmail dot com
Setting the Stage
Aug. 10, 2011 - Iowa GOP Releases Straw Poll Candidate Speaking Schedule
Aug. 5, 2011 - Iowa GOP Outlines Voting Rules and Procedures for the Iowa Straw Poll
July 23, 2011 - Iowa GOP State Central Committee Announces Straw Poll Ballot
June 9, 2011 - Chairman Strawn Statement on the Ames Straw Poll [Romney announcement]
Dec. 16, 2010 - Republican Party of Iowa: Iowa GOP Announces 2011 Presidential Debate and Straw Poll
2007 Straw Poll page | 1997 Straw Poll page
Straw Poll Offerings

Aug. 2, 2011 - Bachmann Announces Entertainment Lineup at the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll
July 27, 2011 - Bachmann Announces Entertainment for 2011 Ames Straw Poll
July 26, 2011 - email seeking support


Aug. 9, 2011 - Cain Announces Ames Entertainment

July 2011 - emails seeking support

Aug, 8, 2011 - email "Iowa Straw Poll Outreach Bomb"
July 19, 2011 Money Bomb
early July 2011 - email seeking support
June 23, 2011 - Ron Paul Wins Straw Poll Auction
May 13, 2011 - Ron Paul Launches Iowa Straw Poll Website

Aug. 8, 2011 - email "Ames All-Stars"
Aug. 4, 2011 - Pawlenty Announces 2011 Ames Straw Poll Activities
July 5, 2011 - Sarah Huckabee Sanders Joins Pawlenty for President as Senior Political Adviser
May 27, 2011 - Schlinger Joins Pawlenty Campaign

Aug. 8, 2011 - Santorum Announces Straw Poll Entertainment

Aug. 5, 2011 - Johnson Campaign: Ames Straw Poll Not What We Are About

American Wind Energy Association
FRC Action's Faith Family Freedom Fund (Values Voter Bus Tour)
Iowa Energy Forum
Iowa Renewable Fuels Association
The Iowa Republican and Google
ONE Vote 2012
PURSE-Iowa and VOICES of Conservative Women
Strong America Now
David Malpass (Radio Write-in Campaign for Gov. Rick Perry)
Democratic National Committee
Iowa Democratic Party