Next, Iowa straw poll: Why it matters to GOP presidential candidates
Six candidates are actively competing in the Iowa straw poll on Saturday. Those who fare poorly may find that fundraising dries up. Those who do well may see an infusion of campaign cash.
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By summer’s end, Texas Gov. Rick Perry is expected to enter the race – a move that would shake up the contest and make the Iowa straw poll feel like ancient history. Given Governor Perry’s charisma, fundraising chops, long executive experience, and record of job growth, he could be a formidable competitor. Or, untested on the national stage, he could stumble out of the gate and become another Fred Thompson. He is the former Tennessee senator who, drafted into running last time, turned in a lackluster performance before dropping out.Skip to next paragraph
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Political strategist Craig Schoenfeld, hired to run the Iowa portion of the biggest “draft Perry” effort, rejects the Thompson warnings. News reports tell him that Perry is taking steps toward running, such as contacting potential donors. “He’s doing his due diligence,” says Mr. Schoenfeld of Americans for Rick Perry (ARP), which has no contact with Perry. “He’ll be in it to win it.”
ARP has eight paid staff in Iowa (including Schoenfeld), who have been talking up Perry with Republicans at local committee meetings, fundraisers, and festivals. Perry’s name is not on the ballot, but other draft-Perry groups are urging a write-in effort at Ames. ARP staff and volunteers, for their part, are focused on identifying Perry supporters and urging them to keep an open mind in the caucuses.
Caucus crystal ball: anybody’s guess
Iowa Republicans take their job seriously. They know that, between the straw poll and the caucuses, they have the power to knock out candidates – or give them the rocket fuel to mount a credible campaign. So, many Iowans take their time deciding whom to support – and polling shows that a large percentage of Republicans are undecided or can change candidates.
For a long shot like former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, hope lives. At a town-hall event in Osceola, Iowa, Mr. Santorum spoke to the 14 audience members – all senior citizens – on freedom, the sanctity of life, and “Obamacare.” But it wasn’t clear that he closed the sale with anyone.
“It’s between him and Pawlenty,” said a retired nurse, who declined to give her name. “They’re similar in character and what they stand for. I just don’t want Obama back in.”
“I’m waiting for Rick Perry, see what he has to say,” said another attendee, Marilyn Dorland of Osceola.
By late July, Santorum aide Jamie Johnson said the campaign had 30 buses and 1,500 people signed up to go to Ames. With 10,000 to 13,000 people expected to attend, a few thousand votes could win it. But if Santorum finishes outside the top three, as expected, it’s not clear he’ll have the funds to keep going. Ditto businessman Herman Cain. Another long shot is Rep. Thaddeus McCotter of Michigan, who entered the race only on July 2.
Still, this is Iowa. “Field of Dreams” wasn’t set here for nothing.
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