Advancing a Free Society

Spinning Iowa Straw Into Gold?

Saturday, August 13, 2011

What to make of the weekend results in Iowa?

Michele Bachman earned a win, as might be expected of a native daughter (she serves Minnesota in Congress, but was born in Waterloo, Ia.). Ron Paul nearly sprung an upset. Tim Pawlenty, the third-place finisher still has a pulse.

And the man they all hope to put out of a job in 2012?

The Obama attack machine marked the occasion of the Ames Straw Poll by going after two Republicans not on the ballot: Mitt Romney (with this ad) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (with this pre-emptive strike).

Here’s how the Straw Poll candidates finished, with nearly 16,900 votes cast (btw, that’s 20% above the 2007 turnout; 30% below the 1999 contest):





















About those results: history suggests that you (a) enjoy looking at the numbers; and (b) quickly move on to something else.

Ames is a great barometer for predicting the winter caucuses (the Straw Poll’s winner or runner-up consistently finishing first or second in the caucuses). It’s a lousy barometer for what happens post-Iowa. Only twice has it produced the GOP nominee; only once has it delivered the next President.

See for yourself:

1979 Straw Poll Winner George H.W. Bush
1980 Iowa Caucuses Winner Bush
1980 GOP Nominee Ronald Reagan
1980 Election Winner Reagan
1987 Straw Poll Winner Pat Robertson
1988 Iowa Caucuses Winner Bob Dole
1988 GOP Nominee George H.W. Bush
1988 Election Winner Bush
1995 Straw Poll Winner Bob Dole; Phil Gramm (tie)
1996 Iowa Caucuses Winner Dole
1996 GOP Nominee Dole
1996 Election Winner Bill Clinton
1999 Straw Poll Winner George W. Bush
2000 Iowa Caucuses Winner Bush
2000 GOP Nominee Bush
2000 Election Winner Bush
2007 Straw Poll Winner Mitt Romney
2008 Iowa Caucuses Winner Mike Huckabee
2008 GOP Nominee John McCain
2008 Election Winner Barack Obama


This explains that, while Bachmann won this particular battle, it’s Perry – who made his candidacy official earlier the same day in Charleston, S.C. (text and video here) – would seem better positioned to win the war.

For one, Perry is the latest governor to emerge as the “not Romney, not Bachmann, not from Washington, not part of the problem” candidate (Mitch Daniels, Hailey Barbour and Christie Christie having been mentioned for this role).

Second, Perry can back up his candidacy with a serious pile of cash, courtesy of hisTexas roots and his connections as chair of the Republican Governors Association.

Third, the race is on . . . to start salting away endorsements from the nation’s trove of Republican governors (members of Congress too).

And herein lies an importance difference from at least one past election featuring a shaky GOP frontrunner. This isn’t 1996, when then-Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole could use his Washington clout to get big-name supporters to join his cause. Keep an eye on which candidate prevails in this primary within the primary”

Fourth, keep an eye on Perry’s media boomlet – is it short-lived or sustainable? The old saying is a candidate’s best day is the day he announces – unless he wins the election, it’s downhill from day one. Let’s see if Perry can keep the buzz going until Labor Day.

Why the small window?

That’s because GOP debates are scheduled for Sept. 7, 12 and 22 (respectively, theReagan Library in Simi Valley, a CNN/Tea Party Express get-together in Tampa and theFlorida GOP in Orlando). Following that: the Feb. 22-24 P5 Straw Poll, also in Orlando.

That’s the better part of a month to see what kind of bounce Bachmann gets for winning in Iowa, whether Perry can emerge as a co-frontrunner to Romney, and if Romney decides that the Florida vote is a good place to bring a halt to his opponents’ momentum.

(photo credit: theilr)