There’s Ron Paul’s “sliding dollar” inflatable, Michele Bachmann’s golf cart, and Thaddeus McCotter’s guitar riffing (minus the screaming fans). Plenty of free barbecue, too, but will any of it bring in the needed votes to win Iowa’s first straw poll?
The Associated Press reports that Iowa State University’s campus is awash with activists who shelled out the $30 participation fee, along with many whose tickets were bought by campaigns hoping to bolster their numbers.
Iowa’s Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn told the AP the poll “is the first measurable proving ground” for the field of 9 candidates. A poor performance could be a nail in the coffin for struggling campaigns, while a good showing could hint at the race’s real frontrunners heading toward caucuses in four months.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won’t actively compete, even though he finished first in the poll during the last election season (Sen. John McCain finished 10th). Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made a surprise visit to Iowa’s state fair Friday, but won’t be on the ballot.
The biggest news today however — at least until the votes are counted — will likely be Rick Perry’s announcement that he’s running. The Texas governor’s entrance to the race, delivered with a speech from South Carolina, adds another big fundraiser to the list of GOP hopefuls, and offers what many Republicans say is the promise of a “well-rounded” candidate.
“As Americans we realize there is no taxpayer money that wasn’t earned by the sweat and toil of American citizens,” said Gov. Perry, remarks that took aim at the president’s stimulus package and “big government” policies. “Spreading the wealth punishes success. In America, people aren't subjects of the government, the government is subject to the people.”
Though some analysts see Perry's religious fervor and outspoken suspicion of the federal government as counts against him in a general election, the Texan's fundraising prowess and support among conservatives may put him among GOP top contenders in short order. Former President George W. Bush strategist Matthew Dowd tells the New York Times:
"He becomes immediately one of the top three candidates and he fills a vacuum, of someone who is a conservative, who has credibility and can speak to the fiscal conservative, anti-big-government and anti-Washington, crowd, but he’s also a social conservative."
Check back here for updates on the straw poll results.