There are just 98 days until there’ll be a key measurement of how Iowa Republicans rate the field of 2012 presidential candidates. Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, says the “window is closing” for candidates who want to be competitive in the Iowa G.O.P.’s “Straw Poll” on August 13th.
“That’s the kind of organizing activity where you really get a true sense of which of these campaigns have a ground game,” Strawn says. Only a few of the likely candidates have started to assemble an Iowa campaign team. Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, for example, has just hired 10 people to fan out across the state and help organize for both the Caucuses and the Straw Poll.
“I’m probably one of the least-well-known candidates in the field and that’s changing in very powerful ways,” Pawlenty says. In late January, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (san-TOR-um) hired two long-time Iowa political insiders to work on his campaign effort and earlier this week Santorum made his 13th visit to Iowa. Candidates who do not hae “presence” in Iowa are making a “mistake” according to the chairman of the Iowa G.O.P.
“Because there is that expectation with an Iowa Caucus-goer that not only will you probably get to meet the person you ultimately caucus for, but you’re probably going to get a chance to ask him a question,” Strawn says. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has tapped a state senator to lead her Iowa campaign — if she decides to run.
A former key staffer in Mike Huckabee’s 2008 Iowa Caucus campaign has signed on with Bachmann, too. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has three Iowans with long-term political experience on his team, too, should he decide to run. February 6, 2012 is the tentative date set for the Iowa Caucuses, but if officials in other states like Florida follow through and move their contests earlier, Iowa’s Caucuses will be held in January.