(Ames, Iowa) Don’t want to spend $25 to vote in this Saturday’s Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll? Don’t worry… all but one of the republican presidential candidates will be buying those tickets for their supporters.
Party officials will require a photo I.D. as proof of Iowa residency, then after the Straw Poll ballot is cast, a voter’s hand will be stamped with indelible ink. Monitors will be stationed in the bathrooms at Hilton Coliseum to check for folks who might try to wash off the mark in order to vote twice.
The outcome of tomorrow’s Straw Poll is much anticipated by the media and the candidates themselves. George W. Bush and Steve Forbes are spending a few million dollars on big parties before the voting starts, complete with country music star performances and feed food. The free food theme will be carried out in other campaign tents, where folks like Crystal Gale, Vic Damone, the Christian group 4Him and perhaps the Osmond Brothers will perform.
“There’s a lot of hustle and bustle,” Ann Doughtery, Iowa G.O.P. spokeswoman, told Radio Iowa during an interview inside Hilton Coliseum, where the voting will be held and the candidates will deliver speeches to the party faithful.
As part of the last-minute preparations, local law enforcement agencies have been flooded with requests for security.
“Iowa State Department of Public Safety and Ames Police are pretty well tapped out with personnel because they’re responsible for most of the activities during the Straw Poll,” said Story county Sheriff’s Lieutenant Gary Foster. “We’re starting to get calls from the individual candidates to provide personal security or security at their functions.”
Foster said some candidates will pay up to $50 an hour for security at the event, which may attract over 15,000 to the property in and around Hilton Coliseum, Iowa State University’s athletic arena.
Drake University political science professor Dennis Goldford plans to be among that throng to witness the biggest political event of the year.
“There’s nothing absolutely definitive about the Straw Poll,” Goldford said. “On the other hand, it is a meaningless event that’s taken on tremendous symbolic importance. The question will be how well will people who don’t do very well in the Straw Poll be able to hold on to their activists and supporters and especially contributors during the fall?”
But the candidates like Dan Quayle deny the Straw Poll’s outcome may spell gloom for a campaign.
“I think some of the national media have come in here and tried to gin up a bunch of hype that somehow this is a make or break decision for a number of candidates but I don’t view it as that,” Quayle said during an interview with Radio Iowa.
Others, including republican contestant John McCain, have called the
Straw Poll a “sham.” McCain refuses to participate.
“The Iowa Straw Poll has degenerated into a spending frenzy when the
winner is not the candidate who is best able to define a vision for America’s future, but who can rent the most buses and buy the most votes,” McCain said in a statement issued Friday.
McCain, who has not opened a campaign office in Iowa, promised to launch a campaign here soon.
“The people of Iowa deserve better. They deserve a campaign that is based on ideas and issues, not the financial arms race that the Straw Poll has become. Once the Straw Poll is behind us, I look forward to engaging the other Republican candidates in the contest of ideas and experience that will ultimately decide our party’s nomination,” McCain said.
Another candidate, Lamar Alexander, said the Straw Poll gives Iowans a chance to hear from all the competitors in the Presidential race for the first time.
“This is a new crop of candidates,” Alexander said. “Nobody from the World War II generation in our crowd. It’s an untested group, in that sense, and (the Straw Poll) is a chance for Iowa voters to say to the country, ‘These are the two or three or four candidates who have the best chance to be president and ought to be president.'”
Recent polls conducted for Iowa news organizations show Texas Governor George W. Bush with a significant lead among likely Iowa Caucus-goers, with Steve Forbes and Elizabeth Dole trailing in second and third position.
If 15,000 attend the Straw Poll, that would equal about two percent of registered Iowa Republicans and less than one-tenth of the Republicans who turnout for the Caucuses.