GOP Candidates Converge On Iowa for the Straw Poll

(Charlie Neibergall - AP)

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Saturday, August 11, 2007

TODAY'S THE DAY

GOP Candidates Converge On Iowa for the Straw Poll

Heading into today's Iowa straw poll, the Republican candidates for president -- minus some heavy hitters -- descended yesterday on the Iowa State Fair for a day of politicking among the masses. They worked the same crowds that they hope will show up 35 miles north today, in Ames, to vote in the poll. The results are nonbinding, but the Ames event is widely viewed as a test of organizational and popular support in this first-in-the-nation caucus state.

Mitt Romney, former Massachusetts governor, has dedicated significant resources to today's contest and is the front-runner in the straw poll. He started his day yesterday in Ogden and Nevada, Iowa. But by noon, he was sweating it out with the rest of the field in Des Moines, engaging in a photo op at the pork producers tent and a brief speech on the Grand Avenue concourse, not far from the fried-Oreo and fried-Twinkie stand.

Dave Jamison, the Scott County treasurer, introduced Romney in Nevada, about 10 miles east of Ames. His message: The straw poll will weed out the weak candidates, leaving only the strongest to head into the fall campaign season this year.

"We're not going to pick who's going to be president or not," he said. "But we'll certainly pick who's not. A few thousand people in Iowa are going to pick who's not going to be the leader of the free world. . . . [Tomorrow] do you fish, golf, find an air-conditioned mall or something? Or do you go to the straw poll? We want you to go to the straw poll."

One key person who won't be at the straw poll is former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. He chose not to participate, even though he has said he will compete vigorously to win Iowa's caucus. According to a PowerPoint presentation prepared for senior advisers to Giuliani, the former mayor knows just how tough the fight will be.

The 16-slide presentation, obtained by The Washington Post, takes great pains to lay out how much more Giuliani's rivals have done to prepare in the state but also provides an assessment of the former mayor's own position in Iowa.

The bottom line, as captured by the title of slide 13: "GIULIANI IS ORGANIZING FOR THE CAUCUS BUT STILL A LONG WAY TO GO."

-- Michael D. Shear

THE END OF THE LINE?


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