Photo Finish at Ames Straw Poll

Posted in: Iowa City Owl Political News and Opinion
The sixth Iowa Straw Poll took place Saturday at the Hilton Coliseum located on the campus of Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. The Straw Poll, created in 1979 by the Iowan Republican Party, is held every Fall before highly disputed caucus elections, and serves as a strong indicator to a Republican candidate’s strength. Although it has no official effect, the Straw Poll is a highly publicized event.

Michele Bachmann came out the narrow victor of the 9 candidates in this year’s Straw Poll with 4,823, or 28.55%, of nearly 17,000 votes. The announcement of Congresswoman Bachmann’s victory came with mixed emotions from the audience gathered inside Hilton Coliseum. A hum of disapproval could be heard among the cheers from Congresswoman Bachman’s supporters. The announcer left the stage abruptly, without mentioning the competing candidates’ voting results, likely a symbolic trophy to the victor. As the crowd shuffled out, Journey’s "Don’t Stop Believing" came over the P.A. system, another possible jab at the "losers".

Ms. Bachmann, a member of the House of Representatives, representing Minnesota, was followed very closely by Dr. Ron Paul, a fellow Congressman of Texas, with 4,671, or 27.65%, of the votes. Tim Pawlenty, who has since dropped out of the presidential race, came in third with 2,293 votes, Rick Santorum claimed 1,657, while Herman Cain received 1,456. Rick Perry, who announced his candidacy for president that same morning, received 718 write-in votes. Mitt Romney, leader of the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll with 31.60%, received only a fraction this year with 3.36%, or 567 votes. Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman received even less support.

The "winner", Ms. Bachmann, worked as a tax attorney, and was elected to the Minnesota State Senate prior to being elected to the U.S. Congress in 2006. She is a mother of 5 children and a proud caregiver to 23 foster children. Her key issues, as stated on her website, include job creation, economic growth, affordable energy, and "a more secure nation." She strongly condemns "Obamacare" and did not support raising the debt ceiling. She even suggests on her website that the Environmental Protection Agency should be renamed the "Jobs Killing Agency" because of the burden carbon regulations and other new rules place on small business owners.

Her de-facto rival at the Straw Poll, Ron Paul, a obstetrics/gynecology doctor, had served in Congress from 1976 to 1984, prior to returning to his medical practice. He rejoined Congress in 1997 where he has served since. Dr. Paul has delivered more than 4,000 babies, and has an extensive family of his own. Like Ms. Bachmann, Dr. Paul campaigns on his ideas of limited government and a return to the ideas of our Founding Fathers. Dr. Paul believes America should return to a gold standard currency and, being a student of the Austrian School of Economics, believes strongly in the principles of free-trade. Ron Paul believes the Federal Reserve should be phased out. Unlike Ms. Bachmann, Dr. Paul despises the use of force and has vowed to reform the nation’s intelligence and military system, among other things.

"I felt a little upset at first, but then when it showed that Ron Paul got second place and lost by only 152 votes, I was ecstatic," explained Logan DePover, an Anthropology Major at the University of Iowa, who attended the Straw Poll Saturday. "I knew that this was good because if Ron had gotten first, the media would probably have written the entire Ames Straw Poll off. But since Michele Bachmann got first, and was the media's favorite to win, and since Ron was such a close second, it meant that they had to except the fact that his support is growing."

Drew Allen, an American Sales and Marketing Specialist living in Hong Kong conveyed: "I like Michele and her policies. I am happy she knows how to win elections, but she lacks executive experience. This concerns me. We need a President that doesn’t make unrealistic, impossible to fulfill promises. We need a person of action, a doer instead of a talker, a pragmatist, not an ideologue."

As is often the truth in politics, nothing is set in stone. John McCain, the 2008 Republican Presidential Nominee, skipped the 2007 Straw Poll in Ames entirely, and secured only 101, or 0.7%, of the votes. He went on to place fifth in the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, and eventually secured the Republican nomination. Paired with Sarah Palin, he lost the 2008 Presidential Elections to Barack Obama. The effects this and other Straw Polls will have on any future elections is always pure speculation. With the 2012 Iowa Caucuses looming on the horizon, candidates will continue jostling for position, and inevitably, public perception will shift.
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