The real race in Iowa
Conservatives struggle to avoid natural selection
By Janine Yagielski/AllPolitics
August 13, 1999
Web posted at: 11:28 a.m. EDT (1528 GMT)
DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) -- While the race for the top spot in Saturday's Iowa straw poll may be locked up by the GOP's $37 million man, the real race in Iowa may take place between the rest of the presidential contenders. In that contest, even fourth place could be considered a victory.
While polling prospective straw poll voters is difficult at best, experts predict Texas Gov. George W. Bush will lead the race in Ames. Multi-millionaire Steve Forbes -- the only other candidate, besides Bush, who did not request federal matching funds and therefore does not have to follow spending limits -- is the sole presidential hopeful to even come close to the governor.
Elizabeth Dole, who leads Forbes in nationwide presidential polling, is seen as a wild card on Saturday. She has targeted young voters who never have participated in the straw poll, so her success may be determined by the composition of the crowd on Saturday. And prospects did not look strong for Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander, who has campaigned extensively in the state.
The most conservative candidates -- conservative activist Gary Bauer, former talk-show host Pat Buchanan, former Vice President Dan Quayle and conservative commentator Alan Keyes -- may be fighting a battle to see who can get the attention of that wing of the Republican party.
"They're fighting a battle among themselves for who's going to be the champion of the social conservatives in this race," David Yepsen of the Des Moines Register said on CNN's "Inside Politics." "So some of these candidates may not have to finish in that top three if they can emerge as the leading champion of the religious right."
None were being helped by polling. An "Iowa Project 2000" poll released Wednesday of 300 likely Iowa GOP caucus attendees showed Bush with 37 percent support, Forbes with 14.6 percent, Dole with 9 percent, Quayle with 5 percent, Buchanan and Keyes with 4 percent, Bauer with 3.3 percent and other candidates trailing with less than 3 percent support. The poll, conducted by PSI of Alexandria, Virginia, has a margin of error of plus or minus 5.46 percentage points.
Rumors of a Reform Party candidacy continue to dog Buchanan's third presidential bid. Old demons and budget problems are troubling Quayle. And Keyes, up for his second shot at the GOP nomination, may still not be on many people's radar screens.
So that leaves the Bauer, the president of the Family Research Council, as the unlikely leader of this pack. Bauer, who never has held an elected office, says despite the outcome of Saturday's poll, he will continue his campaign through next summer's Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
"I will not be out of the contest," Bauer said Thursday night at a pizza party in an Ames park for teen-age supporters. He insists that not only is he "the only one running as a Reagan Republican," but the competition among the conservatives is healthy.
"Each of us think that we've got something that we bring to the table that no one else brings. And I don't know any way of solving it other than the marketplace of politics. That's the great value of places like Ames," Bauer said.
Gary Bauer gets campaign help from his daughter, Elyse.
So what does Bauer bring table that neither Buchanan, Quayle nor Keyes have right now? Money.
"The other candidates ... have got much higher name recognition than us. Their not able to bring as many resources in as we've been able to bring in," Bauer explains.
Plus, he says, his fund-raising efforts are picking up steam, this week passing the 83,000 contributors mark, each contributor giving an average of $50.
"I think my message resonates better," Bauer says. "I believe that candidates that are not getting the money and are not showing any ability to create some passion in their audiences are going to find themselves just losing traction." (232K wav sound)
Although it seems like he is stealing a page out of front-runner Bush's playbook, Bauer rejects the idea that money "is the thing that solves it all."
"I don't want to fall into the trap of making George Bush's argument correct," Bauer says. "Money ... gets you in the arena, if you don't have any ideas when you get in the arena it (money) doesn't help." (556K wav sound)
Bauer says he hopes to finish in the top half -- "maybe better" -- on Saturday's poll.
But as a little-known conservative with a talent for raising money, even a fourth place finish behind Bush, Forbes and Dole might be considered a success.