At the Straw Poll
I met my friend Greg and he, two of his children, and I left their rural Ames home and caught a ride on from the east side Hy-Vee parking lot via Mitt Romney sponsored buses. Greg had signed me up the night before, but I apparently had to fill out the paperwork again, including pledging that I'd vote for Mitt once I got there. Hmmm. I also got some water and a free yellow Team Mitt t-shirt. We boarded the bus, and once we got going, our hostess, Emily, informed us that once we arrived at the lot, someone would shuttle/guide us from the bus to the Romney tent, then on to Hilton to immediately vote for Mitt. Hmmm.
So, once we got there, I told Greg there was no way I was going to be herded like cattle and promised to meet up with him later. Off I went, looking for the Huckabee tent. On the way I passed through Brownback territory. A B-Back staffer immediately saw me and asked me if I had voted yet. I replied no, and upon hearing so, she asked who I was planning on. I told her Mike Huckabee. She replied that Brownback and Huckabee were so close to each other in values, why not vote for Brownback instead, and that she had come all the way from South Dakota to support B-Back. I politely told her thanks, but I was pretty certain. She followed me for what seemed like half a block or more, almost over into Romney's area. I was finally able to shake her.
So, up to the Fair Tax tent, which was easy to spot - it had a Ferris wheel in front of it. Slipping inside, I noticed that it was cooler inside the tent - they must have had some sort of A/C going. They also had great grub - grabbed a burger, chips, and Mt Dew, and I was set. Afterwards, I slipped outside and found a gal handing out Fairtax caps, t-shirts, and bags. I asked what I needed to do to get a t-shirt; she said just smile, so I did and dropped a small donation. Cool, free t-shirt #2. If anything, I'm going to walk out of here with a new wardrobe of work shirts.
I headed north out of the Fair Tax tent and came across my first taste of the Ron Paul militia. They were marching along, with a leader yelling a charge, and the crowd responding "RON PAUL!". "Who's our leader? RON PAUL! Who do we want? RON PAUL! Who's your daddy? RON PAUL!" Or something.
After seeing this, I found the Ron Paul tent just around the corner, near Fisher Theatre. How could you miss it? Signs all along the way with great quotes of great thinkers. Across the sidewalk was Tommy Thompson's area. It was quite vast, with a large tent, play equipment for kids, etc. Problem was, not a whole lot were there.
Heading east on the north side of Scheman I noted John Cox's tent, also quite deserted, and then Tom Tancredo's. To be honest, Tancredo's area looked a little imposing, with his gaze fixed upon you like he's going to deport you if you're not a 4th generation American. He also wanted $15 for his shirts. No way, dude, I want free shirts!
Next up was my man Mike Huckabee's area. I got my straw poll ticket there. Also, at the same time, Paul Shanklin, the guy who does the parody songs on Rush Limbaugh's show, was just taking the stage. Funny stuff. I tried to get a t-shirt from the Huckabee campaign, but they had run out. Same with buttons. I guess that's a good thing - a lot of people wanted them, and he didn't spend too much on SWAG to give away. Huckabee had a good area and good turnout, but a larger tent would have been nicer. Oh well, no big deal.
Duncan Hunter was further down, in the corner, and honestly, didn't look too appealing. I skipped it.
I also cruised around the smaller tents/booths between Scheman and Hilton. I shelled out a few bucks for a "Recruit Alan Keyes" shirt, got a free book that's about 3 inches thick from a guy named Blankenship, tried to score a free shirt from the Iowa Pro-Life group, but they were out of my size, and basically took in the circus atmosphere.
After this, I scaled the steps of Hilton to vote. I provided my driver's license and ticket to the folks at a table, and after scanning them, they gave me a ballot. I headed down the hall, checked Mike, pumped the sheet into the ol' reliable Diebold, and off I went. I cut back to the north steps again, went inside Hilton again for the rally, and found a spot to listen to the speakers.
First, Romney. Very polished. Very...over-the-top, trying-to-be-a-conservative. Some things I agreed with him on, but he also has some social issues that I thought were a bit too imposing. Yes, the family needs strengthening, but I don't want the gov't doing it for me, telling me what I can and cannot read, even if I don't in the first place.
Next up, Tancredo. His army marched in. His message was all about illegal immigration. Maybe he should have had the Emperor's March from Star Wars as his theme music. I know he's passionate about this issue, but dang, he's downright scary to me.
After this, Cox. Who? Huh? His introduction music included a remake/parody of Led Zeppelin's "Ahh ehh ahhh, ah!" song (Immigrant Song). Then it changed to a Rocky Balboa image with his face on it. Call in the men with the white coats, folks. He wants to be a Reagan II, but I don't buy it.
After Cox was some real fun - Ron Paul. If Tancredo has an army, Paul has a militia. The Paulines chanted his name into and out of the coliseum. Paul had a lot of good things to say, and I don't disagree with him on them. The problem is, how do we get to that point? Laura Ingraham, the MC, made some comments about Ron Paul's group that some felt were not so nice.
Then, Gov. Huckabee took the stage. Unlike the other candidates before, he focused on a general theme, and did not go into super detail. He was positive, hopeful, and full of passion about how America can do better. It was almost like listening to a sermon, which he's good at, too. He got a good amount of applause, but not as often as the other speakers.
After listening to Mike, I left and caught up with Greg and the kids over at the Fair Tax tent. We zipped around the grounds one more time. I was able to score another free Fair Tax shirt, a John Cox shirt, and did buy a Ron Paul Revolution shirt. After this, we headed back to the Romney bus, then to Hy-Vee, and onto home.
Greg had a great comment - "This place is surprisingly clean, considering the number of stickers, signs, food, and balloons here. It's cleaner than a Democrat Earth Day celebration!" I guess conservatives have a few good habits, including picking up after themselves.
So what did I learn? Brownback continued to turn me off, not only with his attacks on other candidates but by the way his volunteers went after me (or maybe she was hitting on me...? Naaa.) Tancredo is a single issue candidate that should scare the tinkle out of anyone named Jose or Maria. Ron Paul attracted a good following of rabid young adults. Tommy Thompson's area looked like a good place to retire to. John Cox is a nut case. Duncan Hunter should just campaign for Sec of Defense instead of President. Huckabee has a great message, but could have had a bigger tent. And Romney and the Romulans had a well presented, slicked over, easy selling message.
If you haven't seen the results, here they are:
Mitt Romney 4516 31.5%
Mike Huckabee 2587 18.1%
Sam Brownback 2192 15.3%
Tom Tancredo 1961 13.7%
Ron Paul 1305 9.1%
Tommy Thompson 1039 7.3%
Fred Thompson 203 1.4%
Rudy Giuliani 183 1.3%
Duncan Hunter 174 1.2%
John McCain 101 1.0%
John Cox 41 0.1%
14,302 Total Votes
26,000 Total Tickets Sold
John Cox, Duncan Hunter, and Tommy Thompson should probably throw in the towel. Just my humble opinion.