Sunday, August 12, 2007

Field Report From Ames Straw Poll

Well, the Iowa Republican Straw Poll is all over and the final results look like this:

(Source: 14,302 ballots cast
  1. Mitt Romney, 4,516 votes, 31.6 percent
  2. Mike Huckabee, 2,587 votes, 18.1 percent
  3. Sam Brownback, 2,192 votes, 15.3 percent
  4. Tom Tancredo, 1,961 votes, 13.7 percent
  5. Ron Paul, 1,305 votes, 9.1 percent
  6. Tommy Thompson, 1,039 votes, 7.3 percent
  7. Fred Thompson, 203 votes, 1.4 percent
  8. Rudy Guiliani, 183 votes, 1.3 percent
  9. Duncan Hunter, 174 votes, 1.2 percent
  10. John McCain - 101 votes, 0.7 percent
  11. John Cox- 41 votes, 0.1 percent

Just by eyeballing the crowd at the Straw Poll I knew Romney would win, and who most of the other top vote-getters would be. Romney supporters were everywhere and his campaign camp occupied the large central courtyard that George W. Bush did in 1999. I could tell Brownback would do well also and Tom Tancredo's "Army Against Amnesty" seemed to have a lot of boots on the ground as well. The only surprise for me was Mike Huckabee's final vote tally. I didn't recall seeing that many of his supporters about. I figured it would be Romney first, Brownback second, and Tancredo and Ron Paul fighting for third.

Of course I was disappointed by Ron Paul's showing, but not entirely surprised. I was hoping for third or fourth. Ron Paul still gets the top prize for the youngest, most passionate, vocal, and, shall we say, "colorful" group of supporters. Every so often a bunch of them would parade around the grounds with their signs and chanting "Ron Paul," often accompanied by two dudes in Revolutionary War dress with a fife and drum. Paul had the most supporters waving signs on the streets leading to the event and at the entrance.

In the long run, Paul's small, energized base may be worth more than the large numbers that showed up for the other candidates. Most of the other candidates chartered buses, hauling folks down from all over the state and paid the $35 entrance fee for them. I received invitations from several candidates. Mitt Romney's invitation promised a free ride, a free ticket, a free catered lunch and grand old time. Indeed, his area featured a large performance stage with bands, a rock-climbing wall and various carnival rides for the kids.

Contrast that with Ron Paul's campaign. His campaign didn't bus his supporters down, the meager lunch provided consisted of volunteers roasting a few wieners on a grill and some popcorn, and the entertainment consisted of a few amateur local bands. Ron Paul's supporters were their on their own time and largely on their own dime. Many of Romney and Brownback's supporters were probably fair-weather supporters who will support a candidate as long as there's a free lunch and entertainment involved. Will they turn out for the actual caucus in January when there is no free lunch? Ron Paul's supporters will, giving the others more of challenge than they may think.

While we're contrasting the Paul campaign with the others, here are some more things to think about: Romney's area had slides, the rock-climbing wall etc... Paul's area featured prominent placards featuring quotes from the founding fathers and great political thinkers. Romney's speech centered on the uplifting story of some guy (a Hispanic, he pointed out) winning some medals for the U.S. at the Salt Lake Olympics. It was all flowery platitudes. Dr. Paul's speech centered on the Federal Government's drift away from Constitutional rule of law. He mentioned eliminating the federal Departments of Energy and Education, how 9-11 might have been prevented by allowing a freer exercise of the Second Amendment, and repealing the 16th Amendment, to name just a few ideas presented. In short, Romney's campaign is based on the meaningless, feel good symbolism of the neo-conservatives (along the same lines as Bush II's "compassionate conservatism"), whereas Ron Paul's campaign is based on the ideas and ideals of grownups.

The group pushing the FairTax (a national retail sales tax to replace the income tax, an idea I fully support) had the biggest presence at the event. Romney, by the way, doesn't support the FairTax. The NRA and many different conservative groups had booths at the event, as did several vendors. My compliments to the entrepreneur selling olive-drab tee shirts with the words "RINO Hunter" on them.

I had gone to the Ames straw poll in 1995 and 1999 and it was mostly like I remembered: half carnival, half political convention, hotter than hell and my guy loses.


Bawb said...

Rinos, sheeple and one lone shepherd.

Well, I was reading elswhere that Mit the Pet Rino provided in excess of 10,000 "free lunches" to get those 4,500 votes and that in terms of what the candidates spent on the straw poll, Romney averaged over $2,000 a vote while Paul was around #200 per vote. Hopefully his speech got a few more sheeple brains to start thinking.

The major stumbling block I've encountered among potiential conservative Paul supports is the blinders-on, knee-jerk reaction to the war. "Must support war. Me not patriotic otherwise. Man on TV say so."

Ben said...

A good quote from Dr. Paul's speech:

"We have allowed the nation to be overtaxed and overregulated and overrun by bureaucrats, and the founders would be ashamed of us for what we're putting up with."

That about sums it all up, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Why is Mit a Rhino? I don't get it.

Ben said...

R.I.N.O. (Republican In Name Only): A neo-conservative scuzzbag who acts and votes like a Democrat.

That's the definition. I think Romney fits that label largely because of his active support of gun control, among other things. RINO also fits for McCain and Guilianni.