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July 22nd, 2011

Is Herman Cain Cowarding Out of the Ames Straw Poll?

Herman Cain’s campaign spokesperson Ellen Carmichael is pushing a story, urging the Iowa GOP State Central Committee to not allow candidates on the Ames Straw Poll ballot who did not bid on auction space for the event.  Carmichael first shopped the story to the liberal TalkingPointsMemo website Thursday.  Increasingly, it appears Carmichael’s actions could be a cover story to give the Cain campaign an excuse to back out of the Straw Poll.

“By putting people on the ballot who didn’t pay, [the state party] has the potential to weaken Iowa’s status as the first in the nation caucus,” Carmichael told TPM.  She then pushed the story on the Cain campaign’s Iowa Facebook page both Thursday and Friday, asking supporters to “please help us spread the word”.

Here is the Facebook post Ellen Carmichael made today, which included a link to the TPM story:


“Thank y’all for your support! Keep circulating this article everywhere you can, please! As you know, we paid $17,000 for a spot at Ames. $17,000 means a lot more to a grassroots campaign like ours than it does to career politicians with stuffed war chests! We wanted to honor the traditions of Iowa, including Ames! It is because campaigns like ours paid our way that there is even an Ames straw poll. Without subsidy from the campaigns, other candidates who didn’t pay wouldn’t even have the opportunity to appear on the ballot. Please help us spread the word!”

The most interesting part of the post is when Carmichael says, “We wanted to honor the traditions of Iowa, including Ames!” (emphasis mine).   The use of “wanted” in past tense is intriguing. Obviously, the Cain campaign does not know the traditions of the Ames Straw Poll.  Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Fred Thompson were all on the Straw Poll ballot four years ago, even though they did not participate in the event.

Herman Cain paid $17,000 for tent space at the Ames Straw Poll and a speaking slot inside the auditorium.  Campaigns do not get to dictate who does, and does not, belong on the ballot.  The rules that the campaigns were given before they purchased a lot clearly stated the procedures of how the ballot would be determined.

  • Candidates will be listed on the voting ballot in randomized, rotating order according to last name.
  • The Republican State Central Committee will determine the minimum requirements to appear on the ballot for the Straw Poll. The requirements for inclusion on the ballot will be: the purchase of space at the land auction and the candidate having filed the appropriate campaign committee papers with the FEC; or at the discretion of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Other campaigns would prefer unannounced candidates Rick Perry and Sarah Palin not appear on the ballot, but Cain seems to be the only one objecting to the presence of Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and Jon Huntsman.  That seems odd, since the typical Herman Cain supporter does not seem likely to flock to one of those three.

What exactly is the Cain campaign afraid of?  That they can’t afford to purchase tickets for supporters?  Maybe they should have considered that before spending more money than they raised last quarter.  Or are they looking at his slumping poll numbers and realizing that if he does poorly in Ames, that people will realize he has no chance of winning? Cain may be worried that he will not be able to garner more votes than the candidates who are skipping the event like Romney, Perry, Palin or Gingrich.   Either way, this does not look good for Herman Cain.  If he backs out of the Ames Straw Poll, using this flimsy excuse, we will know he is not serious about being our next President. asked the Cain campaign for comment about their recent statements. Ellen Carmichael said, “We stand by our statements to Talking Points Memo (and others) about the situation and wish to offer no additional comment.”


Photo by Dave Davidson

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About the Author

Craig Robinson

Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country.

Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses.

A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states.

Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site,

Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing.

Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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