The Note: Saturday Split Screen: A Make-Or-Break Day In Iowa And Rick Perry Makes It Official

Aug 13, 2011 9:39am

By MICHAEL FALCONE (@michaelpfalcone) and AMY WALTER (@amyewalter)

DES MOINES, Iowa — While most of the national political press corps and six GOP presidential hopefuls will be in Ames, Iowa today, at about 1 p.m. Eastern all eyes will turn to Charleston, S.C. where Texas Gov. Rick Perry will make his debut as an official candidate.

“Our nation cannot and must not endure four more years of aimless foreign policy. We cannot and must not endure four more years of rising unemployment, rising taxes, rising debt, and rising energy dependence on nations that intend us harm,” Perry will say, according to excerpts of his remarks prepared for delivery. “It is time to get America working again.”

So, is Perry's decision to bypass Ames and steal some of its spotlight going to backfire with Iowa Republicans?

Based on our polling of savvy Republican insiders here in Iowa the answer is: Maybe, but probably not.

Don Racheter, vice-Chair of Iowans for Tax Relief and President of the Public Interest Institute and Chuck Laudner, the former executive director of the state Republican Party both see Perry's move as a "slap in the face" to Iowa Republicans.

But Steve Scheffler, an RNC committeeman and head of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition disagrees.

"I don't think Perry had intentions to slap the Straw Poll in the face. I think he had not made a decision to run, then he was dealing with the state legislative session,” Scheffler told ABC News. “I think that without a speaking role at the straw poll … he didn't want to put his stake down in Iowa until he was firmly committed to running for President. I welcome his entry and look forward to him engaging with caucus goers here in Iowa." (Perry heads to Iowa on Sunday for an event in Waterloo.)

Bob Haus, vice president of Public Affairs for Policy Works and a long-time Iowa GOP strategist also doesn't see Perry's move as "disrespectful" of the process but a sign that he takes the state seriously: "I don't think he'd be coming in if he didn't think Iowa was important." 

As for his prospects in the Hawkeye State, Perry has "a lot of great potential" including a " great record of job creation in Texas" and a "deep grounding with social conservatives,” Haus said.

Tim Albrecht, a longtime GOP campaign veteran and director of communications for Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, shares Haus's assessment.

"I don't believe in the end it will hurt Perry,” Albrecht told the Note. “The only thing that would hurt Perry is ignoring Iowa altogether. A big reset button will get pushed on Saturday and his visit on Sunday tells me he intends to fully compete here, as he should.”

But, back to Ames. Today's event is less "American Idol" and more "Survivor.” 

Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann need a strong showing here to prove they have what it takes to win next year's Caucus. And ABC's Matt Jaffe reports that "the consensus here in Iowa is that Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty and Ron Paul — in some order  — will likely compose the top three."

Des Moines Register political columnist Kathie Obradovich notes that “since 1987, the caucus winner has been either first or second in the straw poll. Like it or not, this early test will help determine which campaign lives happily ever after — or at least until the caucuses.”

What should we expect in terms of turnout? The biggest turnout in recent times was the 1999 poll where 23,000 came out to vote (George W Bush won with 31 percent). The lowest: 1995, when just under 11,000 made the trek to Ames and Bob Dole tied with Phil Gramm with 23 percent.


THE DAY AHEAD IN AMES. Here’s the schedule of speakers at today’s straw poll (all times central):

Noon: Program Begins

12:15: Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn delivers remarks

12:20: Governor Terry Branstad delivers remarks

12:30: Chairman Strawn welcomes all candidates on stage (press shot)

12:40: Senator Rick Santorum delivers remarks

1:00: Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds delivers remarks

1:15: Congressman Ron Paul delivers remarks

1:40: Congressman Steve King delivers remarks

1:50: Governor Tim Pawlenty delivers remarks

2:10: Senator Chuck Grassley delivers remarks

2:20: Congresswoman Michele Bachmann delivers remarks

2:40: Congressman Tom Latham delivers remarks

2:50: Congressman Thaddeus McCotter delivers remarks

3:15: Herman Cain delivers remarks

4:00: Straw Poll voting closes.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn will deliver the results on stage immediately after they’ve been tabulated, according to the party.

THE BALLOT.  Those who reserved space at the Straw Poll were guaranteed to be on the ballot, according to the Iowa GOP. They include Michelle Bachman, Herman Cain, Thaddeus McCotter, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum. In addition to those who reserved space, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman and Mitt Romney were included on the ballot. A write-in option will also be available. 

HOW TO WATCH: “The Iowa GOP will LIVE stream the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll program scheduled to take place today from 12-3:30pm. The program can be viewed online at or at and will include the six candidates who reserved space for the Straw Poll."

TODAY’S HASHTAG: #iastrawpoll (courtesy of Iowa GOP spokesman Casey Mills. Look for him and his Bluetooth headset today in Ames).

VIDEO OF THE DAY: ABC Political Director Amy Walter on why organization is key to the results today at the straw poll:


MEANWHILE IN CHARLESTON. Perry is making candidacy official today in Charleston, S.C., almost nine months after the Texan vowed he was not interested in pursuing a presidential run. Perry, the longest serving governor in the country whose state has accounted for 37 percent of all jobs created since the recession, will use his announcement to set the agenda for his presidential bid, focusing heavily on the need to fix the economy, ABC’s Arlette Saenz reports.

Perry’s announcement will come at the RedState Gathering, a convention of over 300 conservative bloggers, before a backdrop of American flags.  He is expected to speak around 1 p.m. Eastern/ 12 p.m. in Iowa.

The speech has long been on the governor’s calendar, but it wasn’t until this week that it turned into platform to launch a presidential bid. By announcing in South Carolina Saturday, the Texas governor is throwing out the conventional political playbook with most of the Republican presidential field focusing on the Ames Straw Poll. But he won’t leave the Hawkeye State completely ignored this weekend as he plans to travel New Hampshire and Iowa in the next two days, rounding out a tour of three key early states in the caucus and primary process.


THE NOTE ON THE ROAD: ABC News will be offering complete coverage of today’s Straw Poll in Ames as well as Rick Perry’s presidential announcement in South Carolina. Keep up with our regular dispatches from the road all day long on’s Note blog: 


THIS WEEK ON “THIS WEEK”: PAWLENTY AND BACHMANN. ABC’s Jake Tapper anchors a special edition of “This Week” from Ames, Iowa on Sunday. Tapper will speak Republican contenders Michele Bachmann and Tim Pawlenty, who have been battling all week for straw poll votes. Also on the program, an all-star "This Week" roundtable analyzes the state of the 2012 campaign. Who were this week’s big winners and losers? How will Gov. Rick Perry's entry change the dynamics of the race? When will Sarah Palin make her decision whether to run or sit out the 2012 contest? And in one of the worst weeks of his presidency, what will the terrible economy mean for President Barack Obama's reelection chances? Tapper is joined in Ames by ABC's George Will and Matthew Dowd, ABC News Political Director Amy Walter, author and radio host Laura Ingraham, and Radio Iowa News Director O.Kay Henderson.


DEMOCRATS COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. The Democratic National Committee went on offense today against Mitt Romney, unveiling a new television ad that uses Romney’s comment that “corporations are people,” which the former Massachusetts made Thursday while visiting the Iowa State Fair. The ad is running on broadcast and cable television networks in Des Moines starting today. “Mitt Romney stands with the Tea Party,” the narrator in the ad says before a clip of Romney’s exchange with hecklers at the state fair plays. WATCH:

From the DNC: “Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Iowa Democratic Party Chair Sue Dvorsky will hold a press availability and light breakfast for reporters prior to the GOP Ames Straw Poll at 9:30 am CT at the Alumni Center at Iowa State University.”


BACK IN TIME. A historical look at the results of the past three Iowa Straw Polls (courtesy of National Journa's Hotline).

August 19, 1995

Place     Candidate                  Votes    Percentage

1              Bob Dole*               2,582     23%

1              Phil Gramm*           2,582     23%

3              Pat Buchanan         1,922     17%

4              Lamar Alexander    1,156     10%

5              Alan Keyes             804         7%

6              Morry Taylor         803         7%

7              Richard Lugar        466         4%

8              Pete Wilson           129         1%

9              Bob Dornan             87           0.8%

10           Arlen Specter           67           0.6%



August 14, 1999


Place     Candidate                  Votes    Percentage

1              George W. Bush      7,418     31%

2              Steve Forbes            4,921     20%

3              Elizabeth Dole         3,410     14%

4              Gary Bauer              2,114     8%

5              Patrick Buchanan    1,719     7%

6              Lamar Alexander    1,428     6%

7              Alan Keyes               1,101     4%

8              Dan Quayle             916         3%

9              Orrin Hatch             558         2%

10           John McCain            83           0.4%

11           John Kasich               9              0.04%

12           Bob Smith                 8              0.03%



August 11, 2007


Place     Candidate                  Votes    Percentage

1              Mitt Romney           4,516     31%

2              Mike Huckabee        2,587     18%

3              Sam Brownback      2,192     15%

4              Tom Tancredo         1,961     13%

5              Ron Paul                 1,305     9%

6              Tommy Thompson     1,039     7%

7              Fred Thompson       203         1%

8              Rudy Giuliani           183         1%

9              Duncan Hunter        174         1%

10           John McCain            101         0.7%

11           John H. Cox              41           0.3%




@jaketapper: VIDEO: @SarahPalinUSA pops up in Iowa…what do voters and politicos think? Our @Nightline report >

TAPPER TO PALIN: “I don’t understand why you haven’t thrown your hat into the ring.”

PALIN TO TAPPER: “I still think it’s early — I think it’s too early  — and I still think there’s plenty of time for not just be but others to consider jumping in the ring?”

TAPPER TO DAVID AXELROD: “Is it fun watching her for you because she’s kind of distruptive?”

AXELROD TO TAPPER: “You know, I think she’s an interesting political personality.”


PALIN AT THE STATE FAIR.  Sarah Palin spent more than eight hours at the Iowa State Fair yesterday. Here’s more of what she said as she made her way around the event:

Does the race need you? "I think the more the merrier. The more the better in these debates and out there in the arena."

If the 2012 race comes down to Romney and Perry, who would you support? "I don't see that happening — that hypothetical — because very rarely is it just ratcheted down to just two. … Rick's not in the race yet and the debates with him in it haven't occurred yet. That hypothetical, I won't be answering that."

And here’s a dispatch from ABC’s Steven Portnoy: Palin showed potential GOP rival Michele Bachmann no support when asked if Washington Examiner’s Byron York was out of line when he asked the only female candidate on stage, “As president would you be submissive to your husband?”

"Anything in a debate is fair game,” Palin said at Iowa State Fair in Des Moines. “I've been asked the goofiest questions, and the strangest questions, too, over my years in public office and going to debates. So nothing surprises me. But, you know, she articulated according to what she feels in her heart, and that is, to her, 'submission' means respect. And she explained it."

END OF AMES?Is it time to shut down the Iowa straw poll?” the Washington Post’s Dan Balz asks. “That question has been raised repeatedly over the years. It’s difficult to say that the straw poll has no role or meaning. As political theater, it remains a good summer show. But as a way station on the road to the Republican presidential nomination, its limitations are as obvious as its benefits. Ames is billed as a test of organization in Iowa, a precursor to what might happen in the Iowa caucuses early next year. But it is an unreliable indicator of organizational strength. Four years ago, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was the runaway winner of the straw poll. By January, he was the embarrassed loser to Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor, in the caucuses. In 1987, televangelist Pat Robertson was the surprise winner of the straw poll, but Sen. Bob Dole won the caucuses the next winter. In 1995, Sen. Phil Gramm tied Dole in the straw poll but finished a distant fifth in the caucuses. So much for Ames’s reputation as a proving ground for organization. If that’s not enough, the straw poll competition increasingly offers a distorted look at the shape of the overall nomination contest. Sen. John McCain famously skipped the straw poll — and the caucuses — in the 2000 campaign but became the most significant challenger to George W. Bush. Four years ago, McCain again skipped the straw poll (and mostly skipped the caucuses) and still won the nomination. … The press is a willing partner in all this. We have come to Iowa in huge numbers this week, both for the debate and the straw poll. Candidates say they compete because they know the media gives the outcome enormous attention. That’s a legitimate point.”

CAMPAIGN 2012: ‘A WHOLE NEW TURN’: ABC Political analyst Matthew Dowd offers this take on the significance of the week of campaigning in Iowa, today’s event in Ames and Perry’s entrance into the race: “The campaign is about to take a whole new turn in the aftermath of the Ames straw vote, and the intensity will only increase.  Ames won't pick the presidential winner, but it certainly will help pick the losers. Many candidates will either drop out not longer after the straw vote or be left floundering.  While Perry will initially increase the field of candidates when he gets in, the field will be quickly shortened after the straw vote. So enjoy the last days of summer, eat something fried and on a stick, take your kids or your friends to a fair in your area and get ready for a roller coaster ride in the up-and-down of politics starting next week.”

HUCKABEE ON THE 2012 CONTENDERS.  ABC’s Susan Archer caught up with Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor and winner of the 2008 Iowa Caucuses, at the Iowa State Fair on Friday evening. She asked him if he would be supporting any candidate in particular. His response, "Most of them are good friends of mine. I'd stay for all of them." He'll be hosting his Fox News show live from the Iowa Straw Poll today.

IOWA DIARY: A CAMPAIGN OF CONTRASTS. ABC’s Matthew Jaffe, who has been on the trail all week in Iowa with Tim Pawlenty and Michele Bachmann writes,look no further than their campaign events to see just how different they are.”

“When Pawlenty last month visited a sports bar in Indianola, he fielded numerous questions from reporters — whoever wanted to ask one got their chance to do so. When Bachmann spoke at the same bar today, her press availability consisted of answering three questions from reporters who had all been put on a prepared list given to her by her campaign beforehand. Even before Bachmann arrives at an event, the music is blaring. And I mean, blaring. Like, to the point where it’s hard to hear the person next to you talk. Then the carefully orchestrated arrival starts to take shape. At her event at the Humboldt County Republicans’ picnic on Tuesday evening, a tent was set up to the left and rear of the main outdoor stage. A Penske rental truck moved around a few times until it parked to the right and rear of the stage. As the music slowly but surely made my ears bleed, a massive blue bus pulled up – Bachmann had arrived.”

“Look no further than Pawlenty’s appearance at that very same event in Humboldt to see the difference between the two Minnesotans. For starters, Pawlenty spoke indoors. As far as I could tell, there was nothing choreographed about his arrival at all. He just appeared in the back of the room suddenly, standing there, listening to introductions, bowing his head in prayer and saying the pledge of allegiance. There was no music, thankfully. Overall his appearance in Humboldt was hardly like a rally. … After the event, he greeted a few supporters and then he made for the exits, paving the way for the next speaker to take the stage. Instead of a blue bus, Pawlenty stepped on to a non-descript white RV. There was no waving from the stairs. In fact, there weren’t many people left outside at that point to watch him depart.”



@JenniferJJacobs: Pawlenty drops 'bus tickets' in Iowa Republicans' #iastrawpoll

@nytjim: Good piece. RT @nationaljournal: As Perry enters 2012 race today, are we ready for another president from Texas?

@mikeallen: on #ames #strawpoll lawn, @RonPaul has whole city: tents for food, tickets, press, hot dogs, bevs plus stage, "Prosperity Playground" 4 kids

@ron_fournier: Presidential race resets itself today in a dramatic turn of ev … Oh, hell. Honestly readers, it's just a GOP fundraiser and a speech.

@pbsgwen: handy DANDY RT @nytimes: Graphic: A first measure of each campaign's strength at the Iowa straw poll


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