Nine candidates’ names will appear on the Ames Straw Poll ballot Aug. 13, the Iowa Republican State Central Committee announced Saturday.
Six of the nine — Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty, businessman Herman Cain, Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.), former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Rep. Thaddeus McCottter (Mich.) — are aggressively campaigning in the straw vote.
The other three — former governors Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Jon Huntsman (Utah) as well as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — are not expected to even appear at the quadrennial event on the campus of Iowa State University.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, who are both considering the race, won’t appear on the Ames ballot. A group of Perry supporters had attempted to have his name added to the ballot although he has not decided whether or not to run.
The Ames straw vote is regarded as the first major organizational test of the 2012 presidential race.
The favorite going into the balloting is Bachmann, who, polling suggests, is in a dead heat with Romney in the state. Romney, who won the poll in 2007, is not competing in the voting this time around.
Pawlenty has the most riding on a strong straw poll finish because he has struggled to build momentum or raise money since entering the race a few months ago. A poor showing — anything but first or a close second — could complicate his ability to stay in the race.
The straw vote isn’t a perfect predictor of Iowa strength since candidates can pay to bus in supporters. (The event functions as a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party.)
But its results in recent years have been meaningful. Then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush won a hotly contested and expensive straw poll vote in 1999, and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee’s strong and surprising second place in 2007 set the stage for his eventual caucus win.
The Ames vote has not only made candidates but broken them, too. Lamar Alexander dropped his presidential bid after a weak finish in the 1999 straw poll.