AMES, Iowa—Today’s straw poll will a defining moment for at least three campaigns, and will provide the first look at the organizational prowess of all the GOP presidential campaigns in Iowa.
Any Iowa resident who will be 18 by November 6, 2012 is eligible to cast a ballot — mirroring the requirement for the first-in-the-nation caucuses early next year.
The candidates will seek to woo voters will free shuttle-buses, food and entertainment — as well as lavish air-conditioned tents.
Here’s what’s at stake for the candidates:
- Congresswoman Michele Bachmann: Expectations are high for the tea-party favourite who has been polling well in Iowa. If she doesn’t take one of the top two spots, her campaign will be in trouble.
- Herman Cain: The former Godfather’s Pizza CEO did not repeat his May debate performance on Thursday night, and he has struggled to build a broad base of support. He’ll likely place in the bottom half of the field.
- Congressman Thaddeus McCotter: He wasn’t invited to participate in Thursday night’s debate and is relatively unknown to Iowans. His long-shot candidacy will likely be affirmed as just that by day’s end.
- Congressman Ron Paul: He’s the wild card. Paul has a small, but fiercely devoted group of followers who often travel from state to state to support him. His candidacy will not get much of a boost if he wins, but a top finish could hurt other candidates.
- Governor Tim Pawlenty: The former Minnesota governor must place in the top two spots for him to continue as a serious contender. Lagging in the polls, Pawlenty said Friday that he would be forced to reassess his campaign’s operations if he does not perform well today.
- Senator Rick Santorum: He is the most socially conservative candidate in a state where social conservatives make up a majority of GOP caucus attenders. But his organisation is small, and he is not expected to place above third.
- Speaker Newt Gingrich: The former Speaker of the House’s campaign has been dogged by organizational and money problems — the two things key to a successful straw poll showing. Might this be the final nail in the coffin for Gingrich?
- Governor Jon Huntsman: His debate performance on Thursday impressed none, and his campaign has failed to make any inroads with voters. He’s not contending the straw poll, and his totals will likely be embarrassingly low.
- Governor Mitt Romney: He, like Huntsman, is not officially contending the straw poll, though he did win it four years ago. Expect him to make a strong showing, but place behind more conservative candidates.
- Write-in option: How many write-in votes does Rick Perry get? If he can surprise with a substantial number of votes without even campaign in the state, then he may be the big winner of the straw poll.
Schedule (All times CDT):
- 8:00- Candidate breakfast sponsored by VOICES of Conservative Women and PURSE PAC
- 10:00- Polls open
- Noon- Program Begins
- 12:15- Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn delivers remarks
- 12:20- Governor Terry Branstad delivers remarks
- 12:30- Chairman Strawn welcomes all candidates on stage (press shot)
- 12:40- Senator Rick Santorum delivers remarks
- 1:00- Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds delivers remarks
- 1:00- Texas Governor Rick Perry announces for President in South Carolina
- 1:15- Congressman Ron Paul delivers remarks
- 1:40- Congressman Steve King delivers remarks
- 1:50- Governor Tim Pawlenty delivers remarks
- 2:10- Senator Chuck Grassley delivers remarks
- 2:20- Congresswoman Michele Bachmann delivers remarks
- 2:40- Congressman Tom Latham delivers remarks
- 2:50- Congressman Thaddeus McCotter delivers remarks
- 3:15- Herman Cain delivers remarks
- 4:00- Polls close
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