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ANALYSIS: Iowa debate to help thin the field in up-for-grabs race
Question of the Day
What’s pragmatically useful and cruelly necessary is that the nationally televised encounter will almost certainly thin the field — poor performance and stubbornly low poll numbers likely will make it difficult for at least three candidates to attract enough money to campaign through the end of the year.
And what’s odd is the politician whose name is on the lips of Republican officials across the state — Texas Gov. Rick Perry — is not even on Saturday’s Ames Straw Poll ballot and won’t be participating in Thursday’s debate.
Mr. Perry has been hanging back, measuring the field, lining up major donors and is ready to say it’s a go for him during a speech on Saturday in South Carolina.
Also odd: In the midst of a down economy that has strained the budgets of news organizations of almost every stripe — and despite what Republicans generally regard as a pizzazz-free field of hopefuls — the Ames events are drawing a record number of journalists. More than 800 sought credentials from Chairman Matt Strawn’s state GOP organization.
Another headscratcher: GOP contender Tim Pawlenty once had the backing of powerful representatives of the George W. Bush wing of the GOP — including former Bush White House chief strategist Karl Rove and former Republican National Chairman Ken Mehlman. Despite that support, the former Minnesota governor is trailing well behind Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Mitt Romney in Iowa polls.
Still, in the latest Rasmussen poll of likely Iowa GOP voters, no one, including those front-runners, can lay claim to even a fourth of the vote.
Mrs. Bachmann, late to enter the race as a down-the-line economic, social and national defense conservative, leads the pack at 22 percent, just a point ahead of Mr. Romney, the former Massachusetts governor whose health-care bill in his state put him in bad odor with conservatives but has not been quite the albatross many expected.
Next, with 16 percent, is Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, whose views are more reminiscent of conservative hero Barry Goldwater than of most of his nomination competitors and who rubs Iowa’s social and national-defense conservatives the wrong way.
Mr. Perry, though undeclared and rarely seen in person here, is nonetheless at 12 percent.
Mr. Pawlenty, always in Iowa but not often seen by its indifferent GOP voters, is at 11 percent, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, also a down-the-line conservative with neo-conservatives hues, at 5 percent and former Godfather’s Pizza corporate chairman Herman Cain at 4 percent. Former Pennsylvania Gov. Rick Santorum, who hoped to kick-start his campaign with a good Iowa showing, has less than 1 percent.
Benton County GOP Chairman Loras Schulte said there’s “much more indecision about who Iowans are supporting at the debate Thursday and the straw poll Saturday than in the past,” — despite the unifying effect that President Obama has on Republicans.
“That’s why I think the debate on Thursday night will play an important role in what comes down on Saturday,” he said.
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About the Author
Chief political writer Ralph Z. Hallow served on the Chicago Tribune, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Washington Times editorial boards, was Ford Foundation Fellow in Urban Journalism at Northwestern University, resident at Columbia University Editorial-Page Editors Seminar and has filed from Berlin, Bonn, London, Paris, Geneva, Vienna, Amman, Beirut, Cairo, Damascus, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Belgrade, Bucharest, Panama and Guatemala.
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