GOP presidential contenders sweat out Iowa straw poll
By Janine Yagielski/AllPolitics
August 14, 1999
Web posted at: 9:06 a.m. EDT (1306 GMT)
AMES, Iowa (AllPolitics, August 14) -- Between 10,000 and 15,000 voters, hundreds of journalists, dozens of political consultants and nine Republican presidential hopefuls were descending on the small city of Ames, Iowa on Saturday for the first major event of the 2000 presidential election.
Texas Gov. George W. Bush is the odds-on favorite to win the Iowa GOP straw poll. But with an early start to this year's primary season, the final order of positions two through nine could make a real difference to some of the struggling campaigns.
"What happens in Iowa makes more difference than it ever has before," says former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander.
Bush said, "It's the first measurable step to see which candidate can convince good, hardworking, decent working folks to show up on one day to start expressing their opinion about the future of this country."
Voting in the straw poll begins at 2 p.m. CDT at the Hilton Coliseum and the results are expected to be announced at 9 p.m. Most of the candidates will spend the day hosting parties outside the Iowa State University Coliseum for the thousands of Iowans who have been bused to the event.
Alexander expects 40 buses of supporters Saturday, and he said Friday he hopes to "exceed expectations" in the poll. The two-time presidential contender has struggled financially, forcing him to lay off campaign staff. But Alexander has spent more time visiting the state than any other candidate.
Another frequent visitor, magazine publisher Steve Forbes, would like to challenge Bush for the top spot.
"We're making no predictions on win, place or show," Forbes said Friday.
If he doesn't win the poll itself, he may win the title of biggest spender: Estimates of Forbes' bill in Iowa come in around $1.5 million.
Former Red Cross President Elizabeth Dole will have her husband, former Sen. Bob Dole, by her side Saturday as she looks to finish as strong as her second-place showing in nationwide GOP presidential polls.
Another race to watch will take place among the conservative candidates in the field.
Conservative activist Gary Bauer, talk-show host Pat Buchanan, former Vice President Dan Quayle and conservative commentator Alan Keyes are all looking to capture the perceived lead among the Republican Party's right wing.
The final candidate participating in the straw poll, Utah's Sen. Orrin Hatch, entered the race less than two months ago and is not expected to be a factor in the contest. Arizona Sen. John McCain is on the ballot, but will not participate in the event.
Each candidate attending the straw poll will have 10 minutes to address the crowd at the Coliseum. The candidates are scheduled to begin speaking at 4:30 p.m.
The event, which dates back to 1979, has taken on epic proportions this year.
Outside the Coliseum, the campaigns have set up a carnival-like atmosphere, with competing tents, food and entertainment.
Any Iowa resident who will be of voting age in November 2000 can buy a ticket and cast a ballot in the mock election, which also serves as a fund-raiser for the Iowa Republican Party.
Tickets cost $25 each, but few pay their own way. Most have received complimentary tickets from a campaign looking for a guaranteed vote.