Entries in Ames Iowa (8)


Ames Straw Poll: Bits and Pieces From the Campaign Trail 

Eric Thayer/Getty Images(AMES, Iowa) -- The preliminary moment of truth has arrived. Iowans will cast a ballot of confidence Saturday for their GOP presidential hopeful in the Ames Straw Poll.

But as ABC's Michael Falcone and Amy Walter point out, Saturday's event is less American Idol and more Survivor.

Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann need a strong showing here to prove they have what it takes to win 2012’s Caucus. And ABC's Matt Jaffe reports that "the consensus here in Iowa is that Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul—in some order—will likely compose the top three."

ABC's Jake Tapper breaks down the stakes and the expectations leading up to the big day:


Here’s the schedule of speakers at today’s straw poll (all times central time):

12:00 p.m. Program Begins
12:15 p.m. Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn delivers remarks
12:20 p.m. Governor Terry Branstad delivers remarks
12:30 p.m. Chairman Strawn welcomes all candidates on stage (press shot)
12:40 p.m. Senator Rick Santorum delivers remarks
1:00 p.m. Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds delivers remarks
1:15 p.m. Congressman Ron Paul delivers remarks
1:40 p.m. Congressman Steve King delivers remarks
1:50 p.m. Governor Tim Pawlenty delivers remarks
2:10 p.m. Senator Chuck Grassley delivers remarks
2:20 p.m. Congresswoman Michele Bachmann delivers remarks
2:40 p.m. Congressman Tom Latham delivers remarks
2:50 p.m. Congressman Thaddeus McCotter delivers remarks
3:15 p.m. Herman Cain delivers remarks
4:00 p.m. Straw Poll voting closes.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn will deliver the results on stage immediately after they’ve been tabulated, according to the party.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


What Is the Ames Straw Poll?

Eric Thayer/Getty Images(AMES, Iowa) -- There have been five times in America's history when Iowa Republicans descended upon the grounds of their flagship university to gorge themselves on sticks of fried food, snap photos with some of America's most famous politicians and, oh yeah, vote for who they want to be the next president of the United States.

GOP hopefuls, or more accurately Iowa hopefuls, have been dolling out campaign swag, snacks, sweets and speeches to Iowa voters in the hopes of persuading them to cast a ballot in their favor in Saturday's Ames Straw Poll. But this vote, in every legal sense of the word, is meaningless.

It does not count toward the Iowa caucus nor does it play in the general election. In fact, historically it has had little correlation with who will be a successful candidate.

Of the five straw poll winners in history, three have gone on to win the Iowa caucus, two managed to secure the Republican nomination and only one has ever made it to the White House. Statistically speaking, a highly coveted win in Ames gives a candidate about a 20 percent chance of even getting on the ballot in the general election.

But don't tell Ron Paul that. The Texas Congressman forked over $31,000 to secure a prime tent-pitching spot on the grassy knoll closest to the Hilton Coliseum, where voting will take place. Tim Pawlenty has already paid a pretty penny as well, spending at least $50,000 to bus supporters into Ames.

Not to mention the 800 or more journalists who have flocked to the Buckeye State to report every bite of pork-chop-on-a-stick Mitt Romney takes and each corndog the Sarah Palin crew distributes to hungry reporters.

As Iowa Independent reporter Lynda Waddington put it, "It's a rowdy carnival of politics, served with a side of barbeque and ice cream."

And forget voter registration and polling station regulations. At the Ames Straw Poll it's all about the flair, the money and the ink.

To vote in the Ames poll, voters must first battle through the barrage of campaign materials strategically placed near the entrance of the voting Coliseum. To gain entrance to the Coliseum, voters first have to fork over $30 to the Iowa Republican Party. And the one thing standing between GOP enthusiasts and voter fraud is a "wash-proof" stamp on the hand.

So why are political junkies glued to CSPAN Ames coverage as if it's Shark Week on steroids for a poll that is so unbinding?

Because the Ames Straw Poll is like the first inning of the World Series. It doesn't necessarily predict the winner, but it does set the tone for the rest of the game.

Ames is the first real test of voters' confidence in each candidate. And as the stock market has clearly reminded everyone lately, confidence determines where the money goes.

For example, many expected Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to take the top spot at the 2007 straw poll. When he turned up with a comparatively dismal third place finish behind Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, his supporters' confidence was shaken and his fundraising reports showed it.

From April to June, in the first quarter before the straw poll, Brownback raised more than $1.4 million. But the following quarter, which ran from July through October, his fundraising dropped to $925,000; by the last quarter of 2007, Brownback pulled in less than $140,000.

In Ames, it is not necessarily about winning, but about doing better than expected, which is why the nine candidates on the ballot this year are all downplaying where they hope to finish. As ABC's Matt Jaffe pointed out, Pawlenty has said he will be happy with anything higher than sixth place.

So with expectations running high and checkbooks at the ready, the political world turns to a tiny town in Iowa to eat, drink, party and poll.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Ames Straw Poll: A Test of Strength or Much Ado About Nothing?

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(AMES, Iowa) -- A petting zoo, barbecue, pizza, Randy Travis and Dairy Queen blizzards.  It might sound like a party, but the festivities this Saturday in the college town of Ames in north-central Iowa are all about control of the party -- the Republican Party.

If the Masters golf tournament is a tradition unlike any other, then the Ames straw poll is an event unlike any other.  Thursday night brought the second major debate of the Republican presidential contest.  And on Saturday, presidential candidates will try to lure supporters from all over Iowa to come to Ames on a weekend in early August to cast a vote for them in an event that some see as a crucial test of political strength, but others dismiss as much ado about nothing.

Beauty, it seems, is in the eye of the beholder, and this year, with the fight for the GOP presidential nomination heating up -- especially after the debate in Ames -- three candidates appear to stand out.

Michele Bachmann, a congresswoman from Minnesota, comes to Ames as the Republican frontrunner.  She has surged up the polls in recent months, bolstered by a passionate group of supporters.  She has overcome controversy over her migraines and an unflattering -- and some say unfair -- cover on the latest issue of Newsweek.  Through it all, she has drawn massive crowds across the Hawkeye State, at times seeming more like a rock star than a politician.

Tim Pawlenty, another Minnesota native who served two terms as governor of that state, comes to Ames as the underdog.  Despite a finely tuned campaign organization, his poll numbers have been dismal.  Rather than trying to excite voters with Bachmann's fiery rallies and hyped-up style, Pawlenty has opted for a more subdued, measured approach, attempting to win their support by calmly emphasizing his experience and steady demeanor.

Ron Paul, a congressman from Texas, comes to Ames as the outsider.  While in the past the longtime lawmaker has been dismissed as a libertarian who has gained fervent supporters but little mainstream traction, he hopes to see a boost this weekend, thanks to his predictions on the economy.  In 2007, he finished fifth in Ames, but this time around, with the economy still reeling from recession, voters may be swayed by the fact that Paul predicted economic troubles four years ago.

The thing is, warn the pundits, victory in Ames is as much about the strength of one's organization -- transporting people to the event from all over the state on a weekend summer day so they will vote for you -- as it is about the strength of one's support.

"While I think poll numbers have been driven by media appearances and hype surrounding certain campaigns and candidates, this is an organizational test, so can you actually get the people who like you and respond to your message to spend a beautiful Saturday afternoon in Ames and cast a vote for you?" said Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican.

That is why, Robinson believes, an upset could be brewing on Saturday.

"Bachmann has a lot of passionate supporters, but the one thing her campaign doesn't have is that strong grass-roots organization that can actually mobilize people to Ames," he said.  "So on the one hand you have Bachmann who has very passionate supporters and on the other hand you have a Pawlenty organization or even a Paul organization that's been working to turn out voters for this event for months now."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


All Eyes on Ames: Straw Poll Is First Major Test of 2012 Cycle

Darren McCollester/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- At the state fair in Des Moines, Iowa in August, they will judge the livestock like they do every year.  But down the road in Ames, there will be a more rarified competition that happens only every four years, as conservatives brave the hot summer to judge the stock of Republican presidential candidates.

The Ames Straw Poll, which has become a rite of passage for candidates when there is no incumbent Republican in the White House, signals the start of a furious six-month march towards the Iowa caucuses next winter.  It is a chance to separate contenders from pretenders.

This year, the straw poll promises to be hotly contested.

While GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney will not be there, and neither will struggling Jon Huntsman, other Republican hopefuls will be.  At the top of the list is Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who has shot up in polls in the past month.  Boosted by a strong performance in the New Hampshire debate and helped by her success among Iowa evangelicals, Bachmann looks poised to show up in Ames as the one to beat.

But if she has an Achilles heel at this point, it is perhaps a lack of organization -- and in Ames, experts say if half the battle is expectations, then the other half is organization. Combine the current high expectations for Bachmann and her organizational shortcomings and the stage could be set for an upset in Ames.

So who could knock Bachmann off her perch?  One candidate who sorely needs a strong result in Ames is fellow Minnesotan Tim Pawlenty.  The former two-term governor was criticized for not standing up to Romney in the New Hampshire debate.  He recorded only six percent support in the highly-anticipated Des Moines Register poll in late June, and his $4.5 million fundraising haul in the second quarter was viewed as disappointing.

However, it's not just about Bachmann and Pawlenty.  Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, has a vocal following that has helped him win many a straw poll, most recently in New Orleans last month.  Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich also hope to be players in Ames, though it would come as a surprise if either can crack the top three.

Complicating matters further is Texas Gov. Rick Perry.  Perry has been taking all the necessary steps to explore a presidential run, talking to key Iowa players in recent weeks.  One source who spoke to Perry said the governor told him he originally was not planning to run, but is now "leaning heavily" towards running.

In another clue that Perry may throw his hat in the ring in Iowa, his outside funding group is set to rent a plot of land in Ames. The state's GOP leaders will decide on July 23 whether or not to include him on the ballot but, either way, it seems his presence will be felt there.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Pawlenty Steps Up Ames Push With $200,000 Ad Buy

Scott Olson/Getty Images(AMES, Iowa) -- In an effort to boost his struggling campaign ahead of the Ames straw poll on Aug. 13, Tim Pawlenty has reserved around $200,000 of TV advertising in the Des Moines media market starting Monday and running through the straw poll, a source familiar with the ad buy told ABC News.

On Monday, Pawlenty starts a five-day RV swing through the Hawkeye State. The new ad purchase by the former Minnesota governor -- who has a lot riding on Ames -- is the biggest to date in the 2012 race. He had previously run TV ads in Iowa and this week launched a radio ad touting a video about his faith.

Earlier Friday, Pawlenty revealed that his campaign had raised a total of $4.45 million during the second quarter and entered the crucial upcoming stretch with $1.4 million cash on hand for the GOP primary.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Minnesota Natives Pawlenty, Bachmann Wage War of Words

EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The two Republican presidential candidates from Minnesota waged a war of words on Sunday as the fight for votes in neighboring Iowa heats up ahead of the Ames straw poll there next month.

The first shots were fired by former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who ripped into his fellow North Star State native, Rep. Michele Bachmann, in an interview with NBC's David Gregory on Meet the Press, calling her record "nonexistent."

"I like Congresswoman Bachmann.  I've campaigned for her.  I respect her.  But her record of accomplishment in Congress is nonexistent.  It's nonexistent," Pawlenty said.  "And so we're not looking for folks who just have speech capabilities.  We're looking for people who can lead a large enterprise in a public setting and drive it to conclusion.  I've done that, and she hasn't."

Late Sunday, Bachmann released a statement touting her record on Capitol Hill.

"Instead of negativity, I want to focus on my accomplishments," she said.  "I have fought the cap-and-trade agenda, rather than implement it, and I will work to end cap-and-trade as president of the United States.  I stood up against President Obama's support of the $700 billion bailout rather than defend it.  I was a leading voice, fighting against Obamacare and the unconstitutional individual mandates; I did not lift my voice in praise of it.  My message brought tens of thousands of Americans to Washington, D.C. to oppose Obamacare."

"As president I will not rest until Obamacare is repealed.  And I will not vote to raise the debt ceiling," she vowed.  "People can count on me as a fighter; I am proud of my record of fighting with resolve, and without apology, for our free markets, for sane fiscal policies, and in opposition to the advancement of the big government left.  As president, the American people can count on me to stand by my record of advancing pro-growth policies to put our nation back on the right track."

Right now, it is Bachmann, not Pawlenty, who is looking strong in the polls.  Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, Iowa, came in a close second to GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney in the recent Des Moines Register poll, trailing him only 23 percent to 22 percent.  Meanwhile Pawlenty, who has made success in Iowa -- a key part of his campaign -- lagged far behind at only six percent.

Pawlenty on Sunday shrugged off his poll numbers, cautioning that early polls are poor predictors of eventual outcomes.

"I just announced my campaign six weeks ago, so I think it's a little early for that," he said.  "But, more importantly, these early polls are not a good indicator of anything.  If they were, Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton would be president of the United States.  They almost never predict the outcome.  And when people get to know my record in Minnesota of, you know, reducing taxes, cutting spending, doing healthcare reform the right way -- no mandates, no takeovers -- doing public employee pension and benefit and pay reform and the like, I think my campaign will do quite well."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Newt Gingrich Confident He'll Make It to Iowa Caucus

Jessica McGowan/Getty Images(BALTIMORE) -- Before a speech in Baltimore Thursday evening, Newt Gingrich told reporters he’s confident he’ll be in the presidential race through the Iowa caucus next year.

“Sure, of course,” Gingrich told reporters when asked about the Iowa caucus.  “These things happen over and over.  They fascinate the media.  They have no long term historic meaning.  Either there will be a message that resonates with 14 million unemployed.  There will be a message that resonates when one out of every four houses is worth less than its mortgage.  There will be a message that resonates when there are three wars and no strategic coherence in the administration, or there won’t be.  If there is, I’ll be a contender in January.”

The Gingrich campaign turned down an option to buy a spot for the Ames Iowa Straw Poll Thursday afternoon.  An aide to Gingrich told ABC News they are intent on focusing on the caucuses and still determining whether they’ll participate in the straw poll.

“It’s a very important part of the Iowa caucus,” spokesman R.C. Hammond told ABC News of the Iowa straw poll.  “We support its traditions and the important role it plays.”

When asked after the speech why he chose not to purchase a spot, Gingrich told ABC News to “Cover the speech.”

Bidding for a spot at the straw poll began at $15,000.  Rep. Ron Paul made the highest bid, paying $31,000 for a spot.

Gingrich used his speech at the Maryland GOP dinner Thursday night to criticize the president’s claim that the “tide of war is receding” and pointed to the threats posed by Pakistan and Iran, and turmoil in countries like Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia.

“Is the tide of war receding or is there a potential tsunami of violence building offshore?” Gingrich repeatedly asked the crowd.  “I want to challenge the president to withdraw the phrase because it totally misleads the American people and it represents a delusion of the real world.”

Prior to his speech, Gingrich held a roundtable fundraiser for his campaign.  Earlier this week, two top fundraisers for the campaign quit.

The Gingrich campaign is planning fundraisers as they head into the final week of the fundraising quarter.

“I ask everyone I can for money.  I’d love to have your support,” Gingrich told reporters.

Newt heads to Iowa on Saturday for the first time in over a month.  He will join the Iowa Tea Party Bus Tour in Indianola, Iowa.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Mystery Candidate Leads to Walk-Out at Ames Straw Poll Land Auction

Comstock/Thinkstock(AMES, Iowa) -- Representatives of Republican candidates met Thursday in Ames, Iowa for, what is essentially a real estate auction, buying up the best pieces of the Hilton Coliseum at Iowa State University, where August's Ames Straw Poll will be held.

The presence of operatives who refuse to identify which candidate they work for, however, has led the representatives of the declared candidates to threaten to walk, tweeted Andy Parrish, a key player on Michele Bachmann’s campaign.

“At Ames land auction. One campaign refusing to ID themselves,” Parrish tweeted Thursday afternoon.

“All declared campaigns on their feet and agreed to walk from Ames auction until all campaigns say who they represent,” he continued on Twitter. The last of his tweets read, “All campaigns are now outside because one campaign will not say who they represent. All have agreed to walk.”

Sources tell ABC News the mystery candidate is Rep. Thad McCotter, R- Mich., an undeclared candidate.

The auction is a money-making venture for the Iowa Republican Party, which divides the venue and puts a value on each section where a candidate can set up shop to sway voters. Bidding starts at $15,000 and goes up from there.

Ames is located in the geographical center of the state and is Iowa’s most prominent Republican straw poll. This year’s event will be held Aug. 13.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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