One would probably have better luck predicting all six Powerball numbers than accurately forecasting what the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee will do at its next meeting. The Iowa GOP will meet on Saturday, and their main agenda items are electing a new co-chair and setting the ballot for next month’s Straw Poll. Both votes could be long, drawn out affairs, or both could be settled quickly with little debate. What will happen is anyone’s guess.
The question about who should be listed on the Straw Poll ballot is not as easy as one might think. With big name politicians like Sarah Palin and Rick Perry performing well in national polls but not yet making any formal steps to actually run, the Republican Party of Iowa has to make a judgment call on whether or not to include them.
Its decision is made more difficult with the sensitive nature of some of the campaigns. Yesterday, Herman Cain’s campaign indicated that they would be upset if candidates who did not purchase lots in Ames from the Republican Party were allowed on the ballot. Other campaigns don’t have a problem with Mitt Romney or Jon Huntsman being on the ballot, but they don’t want Palin or Perry on there.
Having been the one who organized the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll, I believe that the Republican Party of Iowa would make a huge mistake if they gave into pressures from any campaign in regards to the ballot. If I was in the same position I was in four years ago, not only would demand that the candidates who are skipping the event be on the ballot (Romney, Newt Gingrich and Huntsman), but I would also include Palin and Perry.
Including Romney, Huntsman and Gingrich are no brainers. Each are officially announced presidential candidates. Just because they have chosen not to participate in the Straw Poll doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be on the ballot. It is probably that at least one of those candidates will not campaign in Iowa in advance of the caucuses, but that doesn’t mean Iowans shouldn’t be allowed to vote for him.
The situation with Palin and Perry is trickier. Four years ago, the Iowa GOP had to make a similar decision with Fred Thompson. Thompson was added to ballot much to his campaign’s chagrin. He was placed on the straw poll ballot because he was making moves that indicated that he was running for president. At the time, Thompson had talked to party officials, hired Iowans, and had people organizing for him on the ground. In many ways, both Palin and Perry meet those same criteria.
The insecurity of the campaigns that oppose including everyone on the ballot is quite telling. In previous straw polls, including all the candidates on the ballot was seen as a way to bring validity to the straw poll vote. Excluding candidates because they choose not to participate in the event has the opposite effect.
The candidates and campaigns should also be told that they don’t get to decide who is, or is not included on the ballot. I would hope that they all realize that there is no ballot in the caucuses themselves. That means that Sarah Palin, even if she is not an announced candidate, can still receive votes on caucus night if people want to cast a vote for her.
In regards to the Iowa GOP itself, not only do they want the ballot to have as much validity as possible, but they also should want their event to be as inclusive as possible. Just because Mitt Romney is not going to be there doesn’t mean that his Iowa supporters shouldn’t be able to support their candidate. Why on earth you would want to turn someone away from attending and voting at the event is beyond me. As we all know, it is a fundraiser.
Perry might not be an official candidate yet, but there is a 527 group that has hired a bunch of people in the state. Palin has had organizers in the state for a year now, even though they claim that they are unaffiliated with her. In both cases, there are people working to turn supporters out for their candidate.
The Iowa Straw Poll is like a preseason football game. The campaigns who have been putting in the hard work and organizing are ready to take the field and hit somebody. They don’t care who it is. The more the merrier. Then there are the campaigns that know they are not ready for full contact yet, so they only want to scrimmage with those who they think they can handle.
If you want an idea about who is going to do well in Ames, look at the campaigns that are not raising objections to Perry and Palin. Their confidence says a lot.
If it were up to me, the ballot would look like this:
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