- The Washington Times - Friday, August 12, 2011

DES MOINES — With the clock ticking down to the Ames Straw poll, the GOP candidates with the most riding on the results barnstormed the Iowa State Fair Friday in search of any additional support, as they prepared for an event that could make or break their presidential dreams.

They took turns blasting President Obama’s record and delivered last-minute pitches to the crowd from an old-fashioned soap box, urging voters to come out to support them Saturday in the straw poll.

“Tomorrow is the day that we make the down payment on taking our country back!” Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann told the crowd, which went wild, but then was left hungry for more when the congresswoman left after speaking for less than three minutes.

Earlier in the day, former two-term Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said that Mr. Obama had his chance and “it ain’t working,” and Mr. Paul said, “we have to drastically shrink the size of our federal government.”

The political theater was thick. Rep. Michele Bachmann chomped on a corn dog, while former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty gobbled up a big piece of pork for lunch. Texas Rep. Ron Paul shook hands and posed for pictures with admirers who sought him out, while hopping from one interview to the next.

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, meanwhile, told the crowd that the national media, which was all around him, refused to give him a fair shake in the news coverage, so it was up to them to show the rest of the nation he’s a force to be reckoned with in the Republican race.

“I hear it all the time, ‘I wish we could do something to let those people know what we really think,’” he said. “Well, you can do something, you can go to Ames tomorrow and say, ‘We want to elect a consistent conservative who can win elections against the best Democrats have to offer, and can deliver conservative solutions for this country.’”

Former Godfather Pizza CEO Herman Cain and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich were also among those who spoke.

The biggest draw of the day, however, may have former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose appearance at the state fair drew mobs of reporters and onlookers, and stoked additional speculation that the 2008 vice presidential nominee would jump into the race - just as Texas Gov. Rick Perry prepares to officially announced his candidacy on Saturday.

“There is still plenty of room for a common sense conservative,” the former Alaska governor insisted to a crush of reporters as she inspected cattle with her family at the Iowa State Fair, according to the Associated Press.

The notable no shows were Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who aren’t competing in the strong poll. They chose to spend the day campaigning in New Hampshire, home to the first-in-the-nation primary and an electora that, generally speaking, isn’t as concerned with social issues as Iowa voters.

The straw poll follows the debate Thursday, which turned testy when Mrs. Bachmann and Mr. Pawlenty traded punches, criticizing one another’s record. Neither of them mentioned the other in their speeches Friday at the state fair.