ABC News' Matthew Jaffe (@matthewbjaffe) reports:
DES MOINES — Ahead of Saturday's Ames straw poll, socially conservative groups today launched the "Values Voter Bus Tour" through Iowa, a 22-city swing that kicked off with an event here in the state capital featuring Republican presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty.
But the event ultimately attracted more staffers for Gov. Rick Perry's PAC than it did prospective voters.
The group — Americans for Rick Perry — donned burnt orange t-shirts and spent the morning fanning out to recruit what few people showed up for the event, conducted by the National Organization for Marriage, the Family Research Council and the Susan B. Anthony List.
Nate Crain, the PAC's national finance chairman, said their group of about 15 people would be in Iowa until the straw poll on Saturday, the same day the Texas governor is set to announce his presidential intentions.
"We're going to be doing the retail politics, talking to one voter at a time, trying to tell them what we know from Texas about Gov. Perry's record on jobs and growing the economy and why he'd be the best president of the United States," Crain told ABC News.
Crain denied that Perry's Saturday announcement was in any way upstaging the straw poll. He said the group wanted people to write in Perry's name in Ames — he is not on the ballot because he is not yet an official candidate. The group's staff, which includes college students who flew up from Austin, was driving around the state in a white van emblazoned with posters saying "Write In Perry."
Pawlenty, perhaps noticing the tiny crowd at this morning's event, kept his remarks brief before heading back onto his RV to travel to his next event in Boone.
"I want to invite you to continue to stand strong for life," Pawlenty told the small crowd. "I want to invite you to continue to stand strong for traditional marriage. It's right for our country, it's right for our society, it's right for our culture, and it's the right thing to do for America, so let's continue to roll up our sleeves and get this done."