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Forget about votes at the straw poll. Who had the best food?

From 'beef sundaes' to homemade peach preserves, Republican candidates dish it up as they vie for support. But Iowans are casting ballots based more on their minds than their taste buds.

By Staff writer / August 13, 2011

An admission ticket for the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll.

Charlie Neibergall/AP

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Ames, Iowa

And the winner is ... Tim Pawlenty!

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Just kidding. The voting is under way at the Iowa straw poll, the first event of the 2012 presidential cycle involving voters. But before the results are in, it can be stated with certainty that Mr. Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, was serving up the best food: award-winning Famous Dave’s barbecue, topped with Devil’s Spit - a sauce that’s "XXX loaded with chili peppers and spices," the sign says. For dessert, Mini-Blizzards from Dairy Queen.

Honorable mention goes to Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who featured “beef sundaes” - a scoop of mashed potatoes topped with beef chunks, gravy, and fresh plum tomatoes. On the side, corn dogs on a stick. For dessert, ice cream cups and giant cinnamon rolls from The Machine Shed restaurant. “You can’t eat just one. You’ll be back for more!” the side of the truck exhorts. I had my doubts.

Another honorable mention goes to Rick Santorum, the former senator from Pennsylvania, who came with jars of homemade preserves from his own peach trees, served up by the spoonful on melba toast. Also on the Santorum menu: burgers.

Herman Cain, the former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, served ... Godfather’s Pizza.

The entertainment wars were also fierce.

Ms. Bachmann snagged country star Randy Travis, Pawlenty had Sonicflood and the Nadas, and three of the candidates got one Mike Huckabee - former governor of Arkansas and the No. 2 finisher in the 2007 straw poll, who went on to win the Iowa caucuses.

Mr. Huckabee, an accomplished bass player, was on scene to promote his political action committee, HuckPAC, and was greeted like a rock star. He was performing with bands at Pawlenty’s, Mr. Cain’s, and Michigan Rep. Thaddeus McCotter’s stages.

The big wild card at the straw poll was Ron Paul of Texas, the libertarian-leaning congressman whose followers came out in droves from around the state, intent on making a statement about his unusual brand of low-tax, low-regulation, bring-the-troops-home Republicanism. By noon on Saturday, the Des Moines Register had counted more buses for Congressman Paul than any of the five other active contenders. Paul was expected to finish among the top three.

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