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As Iowa straw poll looms, 2012 GOP candidates push to prepare

Image has not been found. URL: http://images.americanindependent.com/2010/07/MahurinPolitics_Thumb1.jpgWith less than two weeks until the Iowa GOP fundraising Ames Straw Poll, 2012 presidential candidates are turning up the heat in already sweltering Iowa.

Six GOP candidates will attract supporters Aug. 13 in Ames:

  • U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota
  • Atlanta businessman Herman Cain of Georgia
  • U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas
  • Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty
  • Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania
  • U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/romney_2007strawpoll_300.jpgDespite having his name on the ballot, Mitt Romney is not expected to make an appearance at this year’s Ames Straw Poll. (File Photo: The Iowa Independent)

Included on the ballot are fellow candidates former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

Though the straw poll is a non-binding contest, it is considered by many in the Republican Party of Iowa to be a good measure of viability before the next round, the Iowa Caucus, currently scheduled for Feb. 6, 2012. How one finishes at the straw poll can help pick up steam — or derail — a campaign.

“The straw poll is a big deal, because it is the initial stage of the next go-around,” three-time presidential contender Paul told supporters in Des Moines last month. “It’s important to bring people to it.”

In the days leading up to the Ames contest, candidates will keep a strong vigil throughout Iowa. Cain and Santorum have several scheduled appearances in the coming days, and Paul met with voters in liberal college town Iowa City Tuesday, and has held his well-known fundraising money bombs geared toward supporting efforts of winning the Ames Straw Poll.

Santorum took pre-straw poll swipes at the media and President Barack Obama in Davenport Monday, suggesting that he has been ignored by reporters because he poses a threat to Obama’s presidency, and told potential attendees to “strike a blow against the media” by voting for him at the straw poll.

Gingrich, though not making a straw poll appearance, was in Iowa last weekend and will attend a Polk County GOP event at the home of former Congressman Dr. Greg Ganske‘s house Thursday.

Finally, Bachmann managed to make stops on her “Join Me in Ames!” rally tour, though certain events were canceled due to Congress votes on the debt ceiling crisis. The Congresswoman has been favored to win the Straw Poll 3-to-1, according to the Washington Post, and highly favored as the straw poll victor by members of our own 2012 GOP Power Ranking panel. With frontrunner favorite Romney sitting out the poll, Bachmann could be poised as the “one to beat” come Aug. 13.

And Bachmann promises quite the show for Republicans who turn out for the Ames Straw Poll. Her staff announced a barbeque and live entertainment at Bachmann’s tent, including country singers Randy Travis, Richie McDonald and Tim Rushlow, and Christian singer Charles Billingsley.

More quiet on the scene is McCotter, a Detroit congressman known for his sardonic wit and musical aptitude. McCotter’s appearance in Des Moines last Thursday was canceled because of negotiations and voting in Washington D.C.; his other appearances in Iowa have been sporadic. However, the little-known McCotter has the potential to throw a wrench in the 2012 race, and indeed, the straw poll, pundits have speculated. McCotter made a splash at the straw poll auction, after representatives on his behalf initially declined to identify who they were working for.

“McCotter initially strikes me as willing to take the fight directly to the other side in a serious and reasoned way. The word “blunt” comes to mind — something that those who wanted [New Jersey] Gov. [Chris] Christie to get into the race might appreciate,” University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle told The Iowa Independent in early July.

“Those qualities might allow him to appeal to the folks who think that Pawlenty hasn’t been aggressive enough, and the folks who still might not think Bachmann is serious enough.”

And while some on the national level may question the straw poll’s relevance in presidential elections, some candidates keep on notice who they’re up against — and who’s missing out.

In a Tuesday email, the Paul campaign blasted Romney — who won 2007′s Straw Poll — for skipping the August event.

“What is Mitt Romney afraid of?” the email said. “When news came out that Big Government establishment Republican Mitt Romney was just going to skip all straw polls from here on out, I couldn’t help but chuckle… But the truth is, the decision to skip the Iowa Straw Poll is a sign of weakness – and one that gives you and me a real opening we MUST exploit.”

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