Campaign signs

Arriv­ing in Ames.

My Day at the Iowa Straw Poll—Getting There

The morn­ing is brisk for August in Iowa, with hints of rain adding an edge to the cool breeze, but that hasn’t damp­ened anyone’s spir­its in Ames. The bright mood is set by can­di­date signs that line the road all the way from Exit 146 to the park­ing lots at Iowa State Uni­ver­sity. Eschew­ing free bus rides offered by the can­di­dates, I drove myself to avoid unwanted bias. As I exit my car in a dis­tant lot on the far side of the foot­ball sta­dium, I can hear the jum­bled sounds of music, speeches, and cheers draw­ing me towards the fair, er…convention, er…I mean, Straw Poll event. The day is just get­ting started. Vot­ing won’t open until 10:00, but the most devoted sup­port­ers arrived at 9:00, and those who (like me) arrive after 9:30 find them­selves park­ing a long ways away. To ensure that no voter arrives with sore feet, sev­eral of the cam­paigns pro­vide golf carts to run cir­cuits between the far­thest lots and the can­di­dates’ tents. Hav­ing wisely worn com­fort­able shoes, I choose to walk.

Park­ing Entrance.

As I blend into the crowd inch­ing towards the Hilton Col­i­seum, I find myself walk­ing beside a young fam­ily with two school-​​age boys and a tod­dler in the stroller being pushed by Dad. If it weren’t for the Paw­lenty sticker promi­nently dis­played on the top of the stroller, I might think they were headed for to the state fair or maybe a zoo. The ram­bunc­tious boys are chas­ing each other in cir­cles around Mom who gets them to set­tle tem­porar­ily by promis­ing ice cream if they behave.

To my other side are three college-​​age guys in Ron Paul t-​​shirts eagerly plot­ting their day. “He’s the sec­ond to speak, so he’ll be on stage at 1:15,” one says. They dis­cuss whether it’ll be best to vote first then hit the tents or hit the tents first and vote after they hear Paul’s speech. “If we vote first, then we can get a free t-​​shirt.” That set­tles it. They’ll all vote for Paul first, then fig­ure out what other fun they can have.

The Perry Bus

Along the side­walk lead­ing from the main park­ing to the front of the Col­i­seum, vot­ers are accosted by var­i­ous vol­un­teers hand­ing out stick­ers and brochures, mostly for can­di­dates or causes that don’t have offi­cial tents. I snag leaflets for Fred Karger and Gary John­son, two can­di­dates who were denied the oppor­tu­nity to par­tic­i­pate in the ear­lier debate due to invis­i­ble polling num­bers. The Iowa Renew­able Fuels Asso­ci­a­tion hands me a pro-​​ethanol brochure to explain how much bet­ter pro­duc­tion has got­ten since 2004. The Rick Perry folks may not have an offi­cial cam­paign bus, but they clev­erly dis­trib­ute pen­cils that say “Write In Rick Perry” on them. (I’m still stunned that the Iowa GOP agreed to allow write-​​ins for the first time ever.) Bach­mann vol­un­teers hand out leaflets with direc­tions to her air-​​conditioned tent. Per­haps Paw­lenty should have done that, too…

Map of the festivities.

See­ing the actual con­ven­tion space, I have to admit that Ron Paul got his $31,000 worth for his loca­tion. He’s the first thing you see, the clos­est to the vot­ing area, and he’s actu­ally got more space than any­one else, includ­ing a wide, paved area below the walk­ways that lead to the vot­ing area. It’s prime posi­tion­ing, and it pro­vides a shel­tered work area for his vol­un­teers to setup his reg­is­tra­tion and give-​​away desks while offer­ing shade for the long lines that can queue up here with­out block­ing any of the enter­tain­ment. Only Paw­lenty has com­pa­ra­ble room to spread out, but he’s off to the side, away from every­one else, where you might miss him if you didn’t know to go look­ing for him.

Sen­a­tor Grass­ley inter­acts with constituents.

When I finally reach the front of the Col­i­seum, it’s nearly 10:00 and time for the polls to open. Already, there are thou­sands of peo­ple here, but the crowds are rel­a­tively spread out mak­ing it easy to move around. Tak­ing a few min­utes to get my bear­ings before I dive into any of the main tents, I almost bump into Sen­a­tor Chuck Grass­ley who is in the midst of an intense dia­log with a woman in orange. I ini­tially thought it odd that there wasn’t more of a crowd around him, because usu­ally he can’t go any­where in Iowa with­out get­ting mobbed. But today, he’s just another Iowa Repub­li­can at the Straw Poll.

Sim­i­lar encoun­ters with Ron Paul and Her­main Cain remind me of the biggest dif­fer­ence between this and most other staged polit­i­cal events—why this event really is spe­cial, because the vot­ers get a real chance to inter­act with the Pres­i­den­tial con­tenders. If I were so deter­mined, I can get a hand­shake, an auto­graph, a quick photo and maybe even a per­sonal ques­tion answered by each of the Pres­i­den­tial con­tenders before I go cast my vote. Cain dodges the ques­tions, but San­to­rum keeps a calm poise as he actively courts the inter­ac­tion with vot­ers. When asked about his exchange with Ron Paul at Thursday’s debate, the Sen­a­tor clar­i­fies that he thinks covert actions are the real solu­tion to the prob­lem of Iran’s pur­suit of nuclear tech­nol­ogy. I have to give him credit for giv­ing sin­cere, thought­ful answers to each voter.

The crowds get thicker by mid-​​morning as peo­ple of all ages trickle towards the con­ven­tion site. Some sam­ple a lit­tle from each can­di­date before set­tling on a choice, oth­ers seek their favorite candidate’s tent first, and the most con­fi­dent head straight to the vot­ing booths. By 10:30, the line to vote stretches out the door of the Sher­man build­ing, down the long walk­way past the Col­i­seum and Ron Paul tents then out towards the park­ing lot. That line won’t get any shorter until some­time after 3:00 in the afternoon.

The Fun

The can­di­dates know that kids of all ages like to be enter­tained, so they each vie to pro­vide the best food, music, games, and freebees.

To those who’ve voted already, Paul and Paw­lenty both give away t-​​shirts. Show your blue thumb, and you get a shirt. I’ve got to give Pawlenty’s team credit for choos­ing some­thing other than red, white, or blue for their team col­ors. The John Deere green shirts look like foot­ball jer­seys with “Paw­lenty 12” on the back, and they really stand out in the swaths of red and blue. The worst free­bees are from Thad­deus McCot­ter, who basi­cally has noth­ing but a few brochures. Hon­estly, Her­man Cain’s traditional-​​style cam­paign but­tons are pretty bor­ing, too. The most cre­ative award goes to Michele Bach­mann for her Fris­bees, but she ran out before I made it to her tent, which costs her points in my book.

Paw­lenty went all in to win the “best food” award. Catered by Famous Dave’s Bar­beque and Dairy Queen, the lines for his food are cer­tainly the longest. Pre­dictably, Her­man Cain’s tent is serv­ing Godfather’s Pizza—a fresh, hot, and tasty alter­na­tive to the fair-​​style food at all of the other tents. Bachmann’s tent pro­vides clas­sic corn dogs and cin­na­mon rolls, for exam­ple, and Ron Paul’s tent has gourmet pulled pork sand­wiches and corn on the cob in obvi­ous pan­ders to the top Iowa industries.

The Ron Paul “Slid­ing Dollar”

It seems like every­body has an inflat­able play house for the kids, but Ron Paul’s is by far the best. Not only is the “Slid­ing Dol­lar” an inflat­able slide and climb­ing wall rather than just a bouncy house, but it is the first thing you see when you arrive, and it imme­di­ately grabs the atten­tion of adults and kids alike. The afore­men­tioned ram­bunc­tious boys pounced on it right away, to their Pawlenty-​​supporting par­ents’ chagrin.

The best music is a tougher ques­tion, because that depends some­what on taste.  Coun­try fans will camp out with Bach­mann to hear Randy Travis and a hand­ful of lesser artists. Ron Paul offers oldies and good­ies by Small Time Dave and the Windy City Groove from Chicago. I can hear the fun pulse com­ing from Her­man Cain’s tent, but his music ends by the time I get there, so I miss who was on stage. Might have been Mike Huck­abee—rumor has it he plans to jam with Cain at some point dur­ing the day. Paw­lenty seeks affir­ma­tion from the fam­ily val­ues crowd by host­ing Son­icflood, a well-​​known Chris­t­ian rock group, and San­to­rum tries to hit Iowa’s nos­tal­gic nerve with The Crick­ets and Big Bop­per Jr. Per­son­ally, my favorite is Thad­deus McCot­ter who gets on stage and takes requests. He and his band rock ZZ Top, but there are only about a dozen around to hear this genius.

McCot­ter jams for his fans

For fam­ily fun, Bachmann’s tent offers the most options. Bal­loons shaped into ani­mals and hats, face paint artists, and a ver­i­ta­ble arcade of carnival-​​style games all in the cool com­fort of her air-​​conditioned tent. The draw­back? Her tent is closed on all sides to keep the air cool inside, so those out­side can’t really see what’s hap­pen­ing and spon­ta­neously join. There are only lim­ited entries and exits, so only those who don’t mind wait­ing in line to get in and then get­ting stuck inside for longer than they’d planned will ven­ture into Bachmann’s tent more than once.

If the can­di­dates’ tents aren’t fun enough, there are smaller booths for other advo­cacy groups such as the NRA, Iowa Energy Forum, Strong Amer­ica Now, Lib­erty Law Cen­ter, ONE, Right to Life, and many more hop­ing to influ­ence the polit­i­cally active con­ser­v­a­tives who attend the Straw Poll.

So, we’ve graded the music and games and…wait, what are you say­ing? This car­ni­val stuff isn’t the impor­tant part of this event?

The Ames

There are prob­a­bly over twenty thou­sand peo­ple here, includ­ing the kids who can’t vote, so I’d guess around 16,000 or 17,000 vot­ers. When the main pro­gram kicks off at 12:15 PM in the Col­i­seum, there are maybe 3,000 inside the arena to say the Pledge of Alle­giance and hear the invo­ca­tion. The Iowa GOP Chair­man intro­duces the Iowa GOP Gov­er­nor who gives a quick plug for why Iowa’s “first in the nation” sta­tus makes sense. Then, all of the can­di­dates are invited to come on stage for a press photo. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5…wait a minute…Santorum, Paul, McCot­ter, Bach­mann, and Cain…where’s Paw­lenty? No one says any­thing about his absence, and the half-​​filled audi­to­rium prob­a­bly doesn’t notice.

While they play a pro-​​Iowa video, the room finally fills just before Sen­a­tor Rick San­to­rum takes the stage. There are prob­a­bly close to seven thou­sand peo­ple inside the arena now, and the best seats go to the candidate’s “pit crew,” a campaign-​​selected core of about 100 sup­port­ers who get to sit right up front and wave signs for their hero. In an inter­est­ing bit of chore­og­ra­phy, between the can­di­dates’ speeches, there is either a video or filler speech to allow time to remove one candidate’s pit crew and seat the next. It gives each can­di­date an equal chance to speak with an enthu­si­as­tic front row. Behind the pit crew is a raised plat­form for TV cam­eras, then the press fill the rest of the floor. The audi­ence sits in the padded bleacher seats on the sides of the auditorium.

The Main Event.

Each can­di­date is given exactly fif­teen min­utes on stage, sup­pos­edly includ­ing applause and intro videos. That means, if their open­ing ad is long or if the pit crew cheers and chants for too long, then the can­di­date gets less time to deliver any pre­pared remarks. It’s inter­est­ing to see how each can­di­date han­dles the time pres­sure.  San­to­rum, Paul, and McCot­ter all hit fif­teen min­utes on the dot with a per­fect part­ing applause line. Paw­lenty, sur­pris­ingly, only uses twelve min­utes, includ­ing his two-​​minute intro video. Because his speech ended on a strong note, I’m curi­ous if he made it through his pre­pared remarks faster than expected, or if he was given a pre­ma­ture cut-​​off sig­nal of some sort. Her­man Cain also cuts short by about a minute after express­ing con­cern about the time con­straints. Bach­mann, on the other hand, ran two min­utes over with no appar­ent penalty.

After San­to­rum, Lt. Gov­er­nor Kim Reynolds takes the stage while they switch out pit crews for Ron Paul. As she steps to the micro­phone, I do a double-​​take. I rec­og­nize her as the nice lady who gave me direc­tions ear­lier. She was stand­ing alone out­side the Col­i­seum near the vot­ing line with no entourage or press around her at all. I remem­ber thank­ing her as I shook her hand, but I didn’t rec­og­nize who she was. If I had, I might have asked a few choice ques­tions. What an oppor­tu­nity lost, but it serves to remind me that Iowans expect their leg­is­la­tors to be out among the peo­ple. She bravely put her­self in a posi­tion where any­one could come up and ask her any­thing, and she was pre­pared even for stu­pid ques­tions about how to get to the main entrance. What she says now is essen­tially irrel­e­vant, because no one is listening.

By the time Con­gress­man Ron Paul takes the stage, the audi­ence has grown by another thou­sand or so, even fill­ing a good por­tion of the upper level. As expected, the crowd roars appre­cia­tively as he stresses lib­erty, small gov­ern­ment, end­ing wars, repeal­ing the Patriot Act, and the sanc­tity of life. He blames our eco­nomic cycles of boom and bust on the Fed­eral Reserve going off the gold stan­dard, though I won­der how he explains 1929. He sug­gests elim­i­nat­ing all income and cor­po­rate taxes, which makes me ques­tion where he expects gov­ern­ment to get its rev­enue. And, he reaf­firms his pro-​​life stance as being essen­tial to liberty.

After Ron Paul exits to thun­der­ous applause, Con­gress­man Steve King takes the stage while they switch out pit crews for Tim Paw­lenty. In all hon­esty, King is the best speaker on stage today. Even though he’s just a “filler” speech, he engages the crowd in an enter­tain­ing and bold fash­ion that makes even the reluc­tant sit up and lis­ten. After the seem­ingly manda­tory praise of Iowa’s “first in the nation” sta­tus, he grabs everyone’s atten­tion by say­ing that he knows how to make the mar­kets jump by a thou­sand points on Mon­day. All it would take is for Barack Obama to get in front of the press and say a few impor­tant things. King offers to pre­pare the teleprompter for Obama, so he can go out and say that Keynes was wrong and Smith was right, and he’s chang­ing his eco­nomic pol­icy and declin­ing to run for a sec­ond term. The crowd devours the red meat with gusto.

For­mer Min­nesota Gov­er­nor Tim Paw­lenty takes the stage to the row­di­est ova­tion so far. His pit chants, “T-​​Paw! T-​​Paw!” Paw­lenty tells us that all the other can­di­dates say the same things, but just say­ing the words isn’t enough. Obama said a lot of things, too, but his rhetoric doesn’t fix a laun­dry list of issues. It’s time for Obama to go. Paw­lenty says that he doesn’t just talk about it; he gets the job done, as he did in Min­nesota. He says that the Repub­li­cans need a can­di­date who doesn’t just preach to the choir but can bring inde­pen­dents on board, which he proved he could do in Min­nesota. As Paw­lenty fin­ishes, his pit chants “T-​​Paw” as the answer to a series of call-​​and-​​response cheers, but I note that the enthu­si­asm doesn’t really spread to the stands.

Between Paw­lenty and Bach­mann, Sen­a­tor Chuck Grass­ley speaks, look­ing and sound­ing very old but still capa­ble of stir­ring up the pas­sions of Iowans. The room is quiet and respect­ful of their Sen­a­tor, erupt­ing in the now-​​expected thun­der­ous applause when he recom­mits to the Pro-​​Life posi­tion. To me, it’s sad to see how much of his vigor has faded in only a short time, and I find myself wor­ry­ing more about his health than his politics.

Min­nesota Con­gress­woman Michele Bach­mann comes on stage scream­ing at us. “We’re going to do it!” she shouts. “Iowa will be the pace car…” until this metaphor col­lapses under clumsy phras­ing. She prac­ti­cally demands that we love her, we really must. She stresses her Iowan roots, using the phrase “we Iowans” mul­ti­ple times. Iowans like her appar­ently grew up with three prin­ci­ples to live by: Be hon­est, be truth­ful, do what you say, which are three ways of say­ing almost the same thing. She says we need the fam­ily to go for­ward, which is why she’s proud of Iowa Repub­li­cans for vot­ing out three of the judges who ruled in favor of legal­iz­ing gay mar­riage in this state. She says there should be no shame in being a social con­ser­v­a­tive, and no fear of the faith that this nation was founded on, for Almighty God. She says she knows how to turn the econ­omy around, but doesn’t say how except by turn­ing a profit. She stands for the secu­rity and safety of all Amer­i­cans, so together we can forge the next link on the chain of lib­erty, because we are the team that can’t be beat.

Con­gress­man Tom Latham takes the stage between Bach­mann and McCot­ter. Unfor­tu­nately for Rep. Latham, about a third of the audi­ence leaves with Bach­mann, but he isn’t helped by his flat deliv­ery, poor pac­ing, and lack of any­thing inter­est­ing to say. I think half of those who stayed fell asleep dur­ing his nine min­utes on stage.

Con­gress­man Thad­deus McCot­ter speaks next. If you’re won­der­ing who he is, you’re not alone. For the first cou­ple of min­utes, most of the audi­ence seems to think the Michi­gan Rep­re­sen­ta­tive is just another “filler” speech, because he doesn’t even have a pit crew to cheer for him. But about two or three min­utes into his speech, it’s as if the crowd wakes up and real­izes he is a can­di­date. In typ­i­cal Iowa form, they lis­ten atten­tively and even give him polite yet sus­tained applause sev­eral times. McCot­ter says that this gen­er­a­tion has a choice to make, whether to focus on jeop­ardy or seize oppor­tu­ni­ties. Self gov­ern­ment is the ideal of Amer­ica, and tech­nol­ogy empow­ers us today “to extents undreamt in human his­tory.” Gov­ern­ment must be restruc­tured for a twenty-​​first cen­tury real­ity, not just shrunk but redesigned. He speaks intel­li­gently and artic­u­lately about var­i­ous issues rang­ing from bank recap­i­tal­iza­tion, the Mid­dle East, and China before clos­ing with a promise that he won’t work for pun­dits but for you, the people.

With no need to switch out a McCot­ter pit crew, we move straight ahead to the final speaker, Her­man Cain. His pit crew chants “Cain is Able” as he takes the stage, and the crowds who drifted away after Bach­mann seem to have returned dur­ing the tail of McCotter’s speech, because the place is nearly packed again. Cain’s cadence catches the ear and calls every­one to lis­ten. He says he doesn’t need to tell us what prob­lems we face, so he’s going to spend his min­utes telling us how to fix them. The first step, of course, is get­ting the right per­son in the White House. He (unselfishly) wants per­ma­nent zero tax rates on busi­ness and cap­i­tal gains. We need to secure our bor­ders and make sure we focus on the right prob­lems to solve immi­gra­tion. For our energy needs, we should be our own best cus­tomer rather than rely­ing on the rest of the world, which seems to ignore the real­ity of how lit­tle we pro­duce rel­a­tive to our con­sump­tion. To close, he quotes from the Dec­la­ra­tion of Inde­pen­dence. We can’t “pass free­dom on in the blood­stream,” so it must be pro­tected, or we’ll all be telling our grand­kids what Amer­ica used to be like. He doesn’t want to have that con­ver­sa­tion with his grand­daugh­ter, and nei­ther do you.

Aside from each candidate’s increas­ingly stren­u­ous sup­port of the Pro-​​Life view­point, crit­i­cism of Barack Obama, and endorse­ment of the Bal­anced Bud­get Amend­ment, the biggest applause lines of the day were:

San­to­rum: “Amer­ica is a moral enter­prise.”
We need “smart steps towards Energy Security.”
Ron Paul: We need to bring our troops home and stop wast­ing Amer­i­can lives.
“Can’t pro­tect lib­erty by tak­ing it away from the Amer­i­can peo­ple.” (re: Patriot Act)
“We’ve lost our enthu­si­asm for free­dom. We need to restore free­dom to America.”
Paw­lenty: “Obama has no clue. He’s like a manure spreader in a wind storm.”
“Mr. Pres­i­dent, get gov­ern­ment off our backs!” (T-​​Paw! T-​​Paw!)
“Gov­ern­ment by the peo­ple and of the peo­ple shall not per­ish!” (USA! USA!)
Bach­mann: “Almighty God” and any ref­er­ence to faith or con­ser­v­a­tive morals.
“Keep the fruits of your own labor.”
“We love the men and women in uniform.”
McCot­ter: “Democ­rats aren’t pro­gres­sive, they’re regres­sive!”
“China is a threat. China is as wrong today as the USSR was in the 1980’s.”
“Sov­er­eign Cit­i­zens should not pay the banks out of the fruit of their labors.”
“Peo­ple won­der if our best days are behind. Do I mat­ter any­more? You mat­ter more than ever…because in your hands rest the true hope for change.”
Her­man Cain: Zero taxes on cap­i­tal gains, “per­ma­nently!”
“Trans­form the enti­tle­ment soci­ety into an empow­er­ment soci­ety.”
“Stop giv­ing money to our ene­mies!”
“There’s no Depart­ment of Happy in DC.”
“Put the United back in the USA.”

The main pro­gram fin­ishes by about 3:15, which gives those who’ve waited about 45 min­utes to go vote. Bear in mind that through­out the speak­ing por­tion of this event, there were never more than about seven or eight thou­sand inside the Col­i­seum, which means that at least half of the Straw Poll atten­dees were out­side vis­it­ing tents and vot­ing rather than lis­ten­ing to the speak­ers. The vot­ing line is actu­ally shorter after the speeches than it was ear­lier dur­ing the day.

The Vote

To vote in the Ames Straw Poll, one must be a res­i­dent of Iowa over the age of eigh­teen (as of Novem­ber 2012) with a valid state-​​issued ID and a $30 ticket to the event. Con­cerns about fraud and secu­rity were appar­ently high. Cam­eras were not allowed in the vot­ing area, and vol­un­teers strolled up and down the line remind­ing every­one to have their ticket and ID in hand. When I finally reach the door, an event staffer checks my dri­vers license and my ticket, then I’m sent inside where another vol­un­teer again checks my id and ticket, then hands my ticket to a sec­ond vol­un­teer who punches a hole in it before hand­ing me a paper Scant­ron ballot.

Event Ticket.

Then, I pro­ceed to wait in line for one of the booths to open. As I wait, I’m amused to note that there are obvi­ously no rules about wear­ing cam­paign slo­gans in the vot­ing area, as almost every­one is wear­ing a cam­paign t-​​shirt, cap, or sticker of some sort. Out­side the win­dows to the left, we can see the Cain, Bach­mann, McCot­ter, and San­to­rum tents. Out­side and to the right are the Ron Paul tents. Per­haps Paw­lenty will suf­fer in the vot­ing by being “out of sight, out of mind” to vot­ers as they pre­pare to mark their ballots?

Vot­ing is sim­ple. I use the felt-​​tip marker in the vot­ing booth to fill the cir­cle next to my choice, then walk my bal­lot down to one of the scan­ners and insert it. After I vote, three vol­un­teers cor­ral me towards the table where there are blue ink pads for me to press my thumb so that every­one will know I’ve voted. As a bonus, the blue ink on my thumb will get me extra free­bees from some of the candidates.

That’s it! Now I’ve just got to wait until about 6:00 or so for them to announce the winner.

The Results

Finally, at around 6:30, Iowa GOP Chair­man Matt Strawn announces the results:

Place Can­di­date Votes Per­cent­age
1 Michele Bach­mann 4,823 28.5%
2 Ron Paul 4,671 27.6%
3 Tim Paw­lenty 2,293 13.6%
4 Rick San­to­rum 1,657 9.8%
5 Her­man Cain 1,456 8.6%
6 Rick Perry (write-​​in) 718 4.3%
7 Mitt Rom­ney 567 3.4%
8 Newt Gin­grich 385 2.3%
9 Jon Hunts­man 69 0.4%
10 Thad­deus McCotter 35 0.2%
Oth­ers 162 1.0%

Not too sur­pris­ingly, the final tally has Michelle Bach­mann edg­ing out Ron Paul to win the Straw Poll by a mar­gin of 152 votes out of nearly 17,000 cast. This is essen­tially a tie, but I pre­dict the media will vir­tu­ally ignore poor Ron Paul. Paw­lenty and San­to­rum, the two who tried the hard­est, came in third and fourth. Those who thought Rick Perry would upset every­thing were prob­a­bly dis­ap­pointed with his measly 718 vote show­ing, but it’s hard to do well in an event like this with­out a con­certed cross-​​state cam­paign. Of the non-​​attendees, both Rom­ney and Gin­grich man­aged bet­ter than McCain’s 0.7% from 2007, which prob­a­bly means absolutely nothing.

In my pre­view of the Ames Straw Poll, I sug­gested that any­thing other than a win should be con­sid­ered a loss for Tim Paw­lenty, and I stand by that opin­ion. He devoted too much effort into this event for this dis­tant third-​​place fin­ish to give him any encour­age­ment. It appears he agrees, since he announced yes­ter­day that he’s drop­ping out of the race. Rick San­to­rum, on the other hand, despite fin­ish­ing lower in this poll may actu­ally be bet­ter posi­tioned for a long-​​term cam­paign. The only thing cer­tain is that Thad­deus McCot­ter is the loser today, because he placed worse than all three non-​​attendees and the write-​​in Perry.

Whew! I didn’t get back home until around 8:00 PM after an exhaust­ing but fun day. Next time there’s a Straw Poll in Ames, you can bet I’ll be there again!