The man who helped manage the last Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll suggests the late start to the 2012 campaign has made Iowans antsy.
Chuck Laudner, the Iowa GOP’s executive director in 2007, has been out around the state this summer, listening to the candidates who’re competiting for support in the Straw Poll.
“People have been sitting on their hands so long, waiting for this thing to play out and it seems to me that it’s starting to break,” Laudner says. “An election is imminent…so they’re saying, ‘I have to make up my mind and I have to make my mind up from these candidates who are right here in front of me, not some imagined candidate or some skipping candidate.'”
Candidates like Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are skipping the Straw Poll. Likely candidate Rick Perry plans to go to South Carolina and New Hampshire on Saturday as another signal of his intention to run. Laudner says Perry’s weekend venture is another “expected” turn in the race.
“Saturday night and Sunday’s news is going to be what we didn’t expect,” Laudner says.
Bob Haus is another veteran — of three previous Straw Polls.
“Iowans are very commited. They’re very astute,” Haus says. “They really do this quite well and it’s fun to be around that many people who have paid such close attention.”
In 1995, Haus was managing Phil Gramm’s campaign. Gramm tied for first with Bob Dole in that year’s Straw Poll. In 1999, Haus worked for Steve Forbes, who finished second in that year’s Straw Poll, behind George W. Bush.
“I would always advise every step taken for the Straw Poll should be a step you’re going to take for the Caucus,” Haus says. “So in terms of message delivery, supporter identification and supporter turn-out, it’s a very good test of the ship and the logistical systems for the Caucuses.”
Haus was the producer of the program for the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and he’ll serve in that role again this Saturday.
Steve Grubbs, a former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, attended Thursday night’s debate among the presidential candidates and plans to be in Ames today.
“It’s a great weekend for those of us who like politics in Iowa,” Grubbs says.
Grubbs also worked for the Forbes campaign which set up an air conditioned tent and served steak as part of its attempt to compete in the 1999 Straw Poll against Texas Governor George W. Bush.
“We were hoping that we might win,” Grubbs says. “But we knew that a strong, second-place finish would carry us through to the Caucuses.”
Grubbs worked for Tommy Thompson’s campaign in 2007. Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, dropped out of the race about 24 hours after his sixth finish in the Straw Poll.