Thousands of people are attending the Iowa Republican Party’s Ames Straw Poll fundraiser, where several GOP presidential candidates are actively competing for support in the non-binding poll.
The straw poll is not often a good predictor of who will win the nomination, but there is a tradition of campaigns living and dying by the results.
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty has spent about $1 million trying to become the favorite candidate of Iowa Republicans. Many political analysts say if Pawlenty fails to do well in the poll, his support will dry up and he’ll be forced to end his presidential campaign.
Jeremy Davis who lives in Ames, Iowa is serving as Pawlenty’s Story County campaign chair. His job is to round up Pawlenty votes. Davis said Pawlenty needs to finish first or second and predicted that will happen, giving Pawlenty’s campaign a much-needed boost.
Davis said a big part of his pitch in turning out voters for Pawlenty has been the allure of free music and free food at Pawlenty’s campaign headquarters tent near where the balloting is taking place.
“That’s what’s getting a lot of people excited across the board, just the entertainment value,” said Davis who was wearing a green Pawlenty 2012 campaign shirt.
The big draw at Rep. Michele Bachmann’s campaign tent is country music star Randy Travis. Bachmann is also supplying her supporters with free food and drink.
Bachmann supporter Jerilyn Banweelden predicted Bachmann would win the straw poll. She and several of her sisters were wearing red Bachmann 2012 t-shirts.
“I brought all five of my sisters and we all voted for her that could and we just think that she would be a good president for America,” said Banweelden.
A war of words between Pawlenty and Bachmann dominated news coverage of Thursday’s GOP debate in Ames. The next day Pawlenty said he thought the sparring gave him a boost going into the straw poll. Banweelden said she disagreed and that she thought Pawlenty’s tone with Bachmann was driving support to Bachmann.
Both Bachmann and Pawlenty say they will continue on with their presidential campaigns regardless of the Ames Straw Poll results.