Why Would a “Fiscal Conservative” Spend More Than $180,000 To Win A Meaningless Straw Poll?

By Gary P Jackson

Some rituals in politics both amaze and befuddle me. Straw polls are one of them. Oh, they are fun, and we all report on them, but what do they really mean? Not much. Most in person straw polls are conducted at events where a group of folks, who paid to attend, are offered a chance to vote for a candidate of their choice. Many don’t even bother, others are actually paid to attend these events, specifically to vote in the straw poll, in order to help their candidate win.

Ron Paul’s bunch has been doing this for years. It’s why he wins all of these things. They’ve made a joke out of CPAC with all of their shenanigans.

Mitt Romney’s people have learned how to do this as well. In April of 2010 we covered Romney’s Louisiana [Straw Poll] Purchase at the annual Southern Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans. At the time we pointed out that this particular poll was beyond meaningless as Senator Bill Frist had won it in 2009.

Both Romney and Paul had bought tickets in bulk, at $119 a pop, and gave them away, on the condition you voted for them. In the end one single vote separated the two, more or less a tie. We also noted SarahPAC was there. Though not actively buying tickets [or votes] they were handing out tasty treats to one and all. Governor Palin came in second behind Mitt and Ron, and was first choice on the second ballot. 

We ended the article with this observation:

Romney- Buys 500 $119 tickets= $59,500 =TIE FOR FIRST

Paul- Buys 800 $119 tickets= $95,200 =TIE FOR FIRST

Palin- Buys 500 Caribou Jerky= $1,500 = SECOND PLACE



You can read more here.

That brings me to Iowa, and the Ames Straw Poll. It’s a great event, and it allows Iowans to see the participating candidates up close and personal. It’s also used as a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party. And the ticket prices are a very reasonable $30. It’s all good.

The part I don’t get is the ritual of vote buying. Or better put, knowing about the vote buying, why would anyone take this straw poll and it’s winners seriously, or look down on the losers? Candidates openly buy votes. It’s part of the ritual.

Here’s how it goes. Candidates buy up tickets in bulk, and hand them out so people can attend the event. Most campaigns will even bus attendees to the event, just to get their vote.

Michele Bachmann, who won the straw poll, reportedly handed out 6000 tickets, $180,000 worth, and got 4823 votes. As Ed Morrissey at Hot Air put it: “Not exactly a big endorsement.” Oh, and that $180,000 doesn’t include whatever the Bachmann campaign spent on the buses [plural] to ship folks over to vote.

Ed: The fun of the Ames straw poll came to an end this afternoon as the ballot count shows that 16,892 votes were cast, and Michele Bachmann (4823) won a narrow victory over Ron Paul (4671) — less than 200 votes difference. Tim Pawlenty finished in a distant third (2293), followed by Rick Santorum and then Herman Cain. Bachmann comes away with a win, but not by much — and since reports had her giving out 6,000 tickets to the event, it’s not exactly a big endorsement.

Rick Perry, like Mitt Romney, was not on the ballot. However his group put together an effort to do a write in campaign, trying to make it seem like there was a “grass roots ground swell” of sorts. Perry’s astroturf efforts netted him 718 votes. A bargain at $21,540 as he got about the same media coverage for his astroturf efforts as Bachmann did actually working the Iowa crowds!

Organize4Palin was also in Ames with a booth, but they purposely stayed away from the straw poll, choosing to respect it’s intent, and shooting down any attempt to do an astroturf write-in campaign similar to Perry’s. Instead Iowa4Palin is focused 100% on winning the Iowa caucuses. The vote that actually counts.

Here’s a great interview with Pete Singleton, the O4P coordinator for Iowa, that details the work they doing.

We know the Ames Straw Poll is tradition and respect that. It’s obviously a good way for real people to get an up close and personal look at someone who might just be the next President of these United States!

I just find it hard to take the poll serious. Especially since the winner of the poll rarely wins the Iowa Caucus, or moves on to be President. Rare meaning, by my research shows George W. Bush is the only one to pull it off.

I guess my biggest issue, besides the fact people take this poll seriously, is the money spent. Presidential campaigns run on money. Other people’s money. Is spending other people’s money this way the best way to go, especially if you claim to be a fiscal Conservative?

Don’t know, you tell me.

As a side note, I understand all of this is done in order to generate a buzz and get some air time on the evening news.

Sarah Palin was at the Iowa State Fair and got more coverage just for being there. Oh, and it cost a heck of a lot less money too.



Filed under In The News, Politics, sarah palin

8 responses to “Why Would a “Fiscal Conservative” Spend More Than $180,000 To Win A Meaningless Straw Poll?

  1. Pingback: Why Would a “Fiscal Conservative” Spend More Than $180,000 To Win A Meaningless Straw Poll? (via A Time For Choosing) | My Blog

  2. ajsteele

    I have come around to believing your views on Michelle Bachmann. In the past I was not as critical but she is just annoying me lately. Some concerns: I’m surprised Palin didn’t get much write in on the straw poll. I read people yelled Noooo when Hanity asked to a crowd if Palin should get in the race. At this point the media has spun things into Romney vs. Obama. Theres a lot of internet buzz on Palin’s resignation as governor, which I know there was a legit reason but they are pushing the “quitter” thing. As well, Todd Palin had an encounter with a “former Alaskan” at the Iowa fair she acused them of selling out to make millions. I still believe Sarah is our best hope.
    Maybe I’m watching too much negative press and spin.

    • Gary P

      There’s a lot of stuff many of us Palinistas have been holding back on, when it comes to Bachmann, because it would just sound like sour grapes coming from us. Real Clear Politics just published a piece that I’ll be talking about in the next few days that shows why you can’t trust Bachmann.

      This is going to be a fun election season.

  3. Excellent point. (As usual.)

  4. Joy

    AJ, in response to your wondering if you’ve been watching “too much negative press & spin,” well, in a word, “YES!!” Ever since I cut my cable TV after the Immaculation, I’ve saved LOTS of money (I’m on a more-or-less fixed income anyway), but still get PLENTY of news – only from my own choice of resources!! OK, I’ve cut most of the negative spin, but I’ve also missed NOTHING of importance!! And saved myself lots of cursing at the TV….

    The Looney Left LSM still tries to resurrect the “quitter” meme, but talk about news not only getting old, but now also totally discredited – except, unfortunately, among the Daily Kos, MoveOn.org and HuffPo crowd. (Of course, these idiots never got worked up whatsoever about Ovomit’s quitting the US Senate or Hitlery’s willingness to do so as well, had she won the nomination.)

    And the crowd listening to the Hannity interview (which I did see in replay right here on the Palin InfoBlog!), apparently had just emerged from a Ron Paul event , but I still heard LOTS of cheers and applause throughout the interview!

    Re the lack of write-in votes: As Gary pointed out, O4P in Iowa intentionally avoided the straw poll (since Palin had no scheduled appearances at the Fair), knowing – from past experience – just how manipulated it can get, and, instead, has been focusing from the get-got on the Caucuses in Jan. or Feb. – the “poll” that REALLY counts!

    BTW, Gary is just monitoring all the weaknesses (understatement) of the Bachmann campaign and, in fact, Bachmann herself. She WILL implode. It is written in the stars and in the tea leaves….

    Finally, I was NOT aware (and, apparently, it was not worth mentioning by the LSM?) that Bachmann pulled a Ron Paul trick out of the old campaigning hat: Namely, BUYING those paltry (and totally insignificant!) votes that put her over the top in the Ames straw poll!! And, at such a cost!! Her glee at the announcement and when she spoke in Waterloo was excessively – and, IMO, prematurely – “jubilant,” when such strutting and gloating was barely justified…

  5. Seattle

    Those of us who saw a brilliant OODA loop when Gov. Palin resigned as Alaska’s governor, see an OODA loop when Peter Singleton said this, in his interview:

    “..the 2012 campaign has begun for the announced candidates, and thus the Straw Poll will be a measure of effectiveness of their ground games and support in this state—and virtually all of them, either publicly or privately, are working hard to get votes at the Straw Poll. There is also a well-funded organization of political professionals supporting a national Republican figure considering entering the race, which is aggressively soliciting votes at the Straw Poll, and their success in doing so may provide an indication as to the effectiveness of their considerable efforts in this state thus far.

    “We are watching all of their efforts closely, and appreciate what they are doing, and wish them all well. We look forward to contending vigorously with them when the Governor enters the race.”

    ‘Nuff said.

  6. IwjwI

    $144,690 was what bought those 4,823 votes for Bachmann after she
    spent $180,000 to buy 6,000 votes.
    She lost $35,310 on 1,177 of the 6,000 votes that she bought and lost because those votes werent cast for her. She spent and lost more than that if you count the money that she spent to bus people in and add in all the other costs.
    She spent $180,000 just to buy 6,000 votes. What was her total cost for this?

    Sarah Palin works smarter and harder without spending and is the most fiscal conservative out of all the Republican POTUS candidates.
    This tells me much about how a president will spend, or not spend our hard earned tax dollars.
    This tells me much about who will waste our hard earned tax dollars, too.

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