Ames Stories and Tips

The Ames (GOP) Straw Poll - 2008

The Crowd Greets Mitt Photo, Ames, Iowa

One of the summer fundraisers for the Republican Party, the Ames Straw Poll is traditionally held right here where we live in August approximately 15 months before the national election for the United State President. This year’s straw poll was by-passed by leading GOP candidate Rudy Giuliani and financially struggling John McCain. Of the candidates who have announced, most of the others were all here...Sam Brownbeck, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Tommy Thompson, Mike Huckabee and Tom Tancredo were all here. Many provided bus transportation from all around the state to the Iowa State University campus for the big Saturday event.

The Ames Straw Poll is felt to be important in the political process by some, while others give it little credence as evidenced by the snub by Giuliani. Perhaps more relevant is that it provides for little known candidates the opportunity to get their name out into the mainstream media. More important to the GOP process is the Iowa Caucus which occurs at the beginning of the party nomination process in January of election years.

This year’s event had quite the carnival atmosphere, with many of the candidates providing an opportunity for a fun family event. By far, Mitt Romney’s campaign overspent the others as evidenced by their HUGE area featuring live music on the big “MITT 2008” Stage, several inflatable attractions including a “bounce-house” and slide, as well as a rock wall for climbing. Catered by the best barbecue and rib house in town, Hickory Park, attendees were treated to a wonderful afternoon. Of course, it would not be a political event without speeches from the candidates. Many of them spoke with voters in their tents as well as from the main stage inside the Hilton Colesium (where the ISU basketball team plays). While the temperatures here in Iowa were approaching 100 hot and humid degrees, Logan and David had a wonderful time.

One of the most interesting things to me was the fact that to participate in the straw poll, anyone age 18 and over may vote. Tickets cost $35 per person, but many of the campaigns actually recruit and pay for the “voting admission” necessary to partake in the day’s activities. It was clear by walking around, who had the deep pockets in the GOP... Mitt Romney! He had more fans and supporters, if only for a day of free food and activities.

He did win the Ames Straw Poll with nearly 32% of the 14,300 votes cast. The next closest candidate registered 18% (Mike Huckabee). Many are predicting that the Ames Straw Poll probably helped him the most in getting some national level recognition. For those who didn’t invest much in the way of onsite activities or pre-event media, it showed. The result was at least one casualty, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson.

In addition to the candidates who came to Ames, there were also several other political activist groups there, including and (I think Miss Heidi is an independent!) It was a great time to give a nine-year old an education on the American political process, regardless of your political party affiliations or candidate of choice. Given that hot temperatures for the day, it was a decent turn out and a good time had by all who made it to Ames!

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