Here’s how it works: any person who is over the age of 18 may vote for their preference for the presidency by buying a $35 ticket. They need not be a republican, nor a registered voter. The candidates can buy large quantities of tickets and distribute them to supporters or would-be supporters for the exchange of their vote. Additionally, candidates can set up booths, tents, information centers, tables (extra $$ for air conditioned) in order to make their case, provided that they pay the state party. Moreover, the candidates can give away free food, shirts, trinkets, etc. provided that they pay the state party. Candidates can engage in any type of kitschy campaigning (look for Elvis impersonators! Giant watermelons! Harleys!), provided that they pay the state party.
Essentially the candidates are seeing who can pay the most money to buy tickets for people who may or may not be voters to gain entrance to an event where they will have to spend more money on keeping them interested, fed, and cool. If a candidate can successfully do all of that, then they may be able to win a poll that means nothing. Former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani who, along with Arizona Senator John McCain, is NOT actively participating in this straw poll (despite the fact that he’s leading the GOP field in every survey across the spectrum) once remarked that the straw poll “sounded like a bit of a shakedown.” He was wrong. It is a total shakedown.
In addition to Giuliani and McCain, former Tennessee Senator Fred Thompson (who may or may not be a candidate) is also skipping the straw poll. This means that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is the only top-tier candidate giving it a serious run. I love irony. See, Mitt was banking on a huge win at Ames over his better-known rivals. While he seems to be polling well in NH and IA and has been adept at raising a formidable war chest, Mitt is still stuck in the single digits nationally. An Ames win would show real momentum. As such, Mitt’s been working the state hard and has spent upwards of $2m in preparation for tomorrow. But, a funny thing happened on the way to the Elvis tent. The big three candidates decided not to contest the straw poll, so now Mitt is being written off. Of course he’ll win, the chattering classes say, but if he doesn’t win by 80%, then his campaign is in trouble. Be careful what you wish for…
Here are my predictions for the order of finish for the Iowa GOP Straw Poll, weigh in with your own thoughts in the comments:
1.) Mitt Romney
2.) Mike Huckabee
3.) Sam Brownback
4.) Rudy Giuliani (this would be a huge win for Rudy, as he is not contesting the poll. Additionally, if he could break into the top four, that would dominate the news coverage.)
5.) Fred Thompson
6.) Tommy Thompson
7.) Tom Tancredo
8.) John McCain
9.) Duncan Hunter
10.) Ron Paul
11.) John Cox
Cross posted at: http://mattomalley.b…