The Republican popularity contest continues in Iowa as presidential hopefuls gyrate in a political wet t-shirt contest in hopes of catching some attention in the straw poll. The straw poll is the first stumbling block for any Republican seeking the oval office and voting took up six hours Saturday on the campus of Iowa State University.
The straw poll doesn’t win or lose an election. As Rachel Maddow pointed out the other day, it seems largely meaningless except in the eyes of the Republicans lining up to “show their junk.” Tim Pawlenty, for example, is going to be a loser whether he won the straw poll or not (and he finished a very disappointing third), just as Mitt Romney isn’t our president despite winning the straw poll in 2008. McCain didn’t compete at all in ’08 but he’s the one who ended up getting the nod.
But it’s definitely an ego boost and an economic boost for the Iowa Republican Party. The candidates probably get less out of it, and they like the voters they buy, have to pay good hard cash to get anything at all.
In the end, Michele Bachmann walked away with the biggest smile, after narrowly pulling out a victory. Who says hate doesn’t sell? Souls certainly do; ask any of those who sold theirs to vote for her in Iowa yesterday – the going rate was a $30 ticket and, let’s see… according to CBS News, “Bachmann volunteers walked around offering hot dogs and bottles of water to anyone clad in a free Bachmann t-shirt.” There you go: the cost of a human soul.
Bachmann got 28 percent of the vote.FOXNews somehow thinks this “affirm[s] her status as a top-tier candidate in the Republican race to challenge President Obama in 2012.” Bachmann herself agreed, ironically spewing the same trite message as Perry:
“We just sent a message that Obama will be a one-term president.” Her victory was, she said, a “down payment on taking our country back.”
Ron Paul, the perennial also-ran has a good following but that means nothing in the long run and it garnered him only 27 percent of the vote, which has to be a real disappointment. Rick Santorum barely registers as there and he’s better known for an internet definition than for any actual accomplishments and his 9 percent didn’t do anything to overturn that perception.
Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich were also on the ballot but nobody is putting either of them on any short list, nor Utah Gov. John Huntsman, for that matter, and it showed with a whopping 69 votes. Cain ended up with an uninspiring 8 percent of the vote, doing even worse than Santorum, which is no mean accomplishment.
Rick Perry, as is well known, snubbed the straw poll by traipsing down to South Carolina – a secessionist in the first state to secede (a message there?) to announce his candidacy on Saturday afternoon. Only 718 people bothered to cast a vote for the absent anti-constitutionalist theocrat. Sarah Palin isn’t even in the race, though she headed down to Iowa to get some face time. Here’s the final tally:
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.): 4,823 votes
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas): 4,671 votes
Former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty: 2,293 votes
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.): 1,657 votes
Former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain: 1,456 votes
Texas Governor Rick Perry: 718 votes
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney: 567 votes
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: 385 votes
Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman: 69 votes
U.S. Rep Thad McCotter (R-Mich.): 35 votes
What does all this mean? It’s difficult to say. Even FOXNews admits the straw poll may not mean much. The real prize will probably be the increased face-time for Michele Bachmann, who is scheduled to appear on all five Sunday morning talk shows: ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox and NBC, this morning. It also cements Bachmann’s role as Perry’s rival for the hearts and minds of the religiously compromised.
When Rachel Maddow called the straw poll a racket, she wasn’t kidding. It costs $30 for a ticket, so you basically buy your right to cast a vote. Some campaigns bought tickets themselves and then distributed them to backers. Typically some 14,000 to 23,000 people show up to be fleeced and to sell their souls (yesterday the tally was 17,000). CBS News agrees, calling it “something of a fraudulent affair” since the voters are bribed to attend “with free barbecue and entertainment.” Campaigns also bus people in, but you have to promise to vote for that candidate to ride the bus.
None of this is surprising; the Republican Party has been buying elections – and souls – since the 19th century. They’ll certainly do their best to buy 2012 as well; Ames, Iowa is just the beginning. Next buy: the Iowa caucuses, February 6, 2012.