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August 3rd, 2011

Pro-Perry Group Plans Straw Poll Write-in Push

Rick Perry’s name will not appear on the Ames Straw Poll ballot, he will not be there, and the Republican Party of Iowa will not allow a pro-Perry PAC to purchase space at the event.  However, all those obstacles are not preventing Americans for Rick Perry from attempting to influence the Straw Poll.

Since they will not be allowed a lot at Iowa State University, Perry supporters will set up shop in a Holiday Inn conference center, less than a mile away.  They are offering free t-shirts and other inexpensive “swag” to people who drop by the hotel.  According to sources, they will also offer free Straw Poll tickets to Rick Perry supporters.

Craig Schoenfeld, the Iowa executive director of Americans for Rick Perry, said the group has not purchased any tickets yet, but that could change within the next week or so.  He also downplayed their efforts for the Ames Straw Poll.  “There’s no goal, there’s no buses, there’s no candidate or campaign,” Schoenfeld told  “The straw poll is a candidate driven event.  That’s historical.  We have no candidate.”

Schoenfeld added that having “50-60 people at the Straw Poll in Rick Perry t-shirts, out there talking to other activists, that’s a way to build on grassroots support”.  However, the pro-Perry groups seem to be investing a lot of time and effort for just 50-60 votes.  GrowPAC, another pro-Perry 527 group, purchased time on Des Moines and Ames radio stations with ads that encourage Iowans to write-in Rick Perry’s name on the Straw Poll ballot.

One of the pro-Perry groups conducted automated phone calls to Iowa Republicans in the past few days.  The calls ask which candidate you favor.  Perry’s is the first name on the list.  If you select him, you are then asked if you would be interested in supporting Rick Perry at the Ames Straw Poll.  If you say yes, the system responds that someone would be in touch with you in the next few days.

An email blast was also sent out by Americans for Rick Perry executive director Jeff LaCourse.  The text includes a request to “Join us at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Presidential Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa on Saturday, August 13.”  Readers are then directed to two email addresses and a phone number to call for more information.

Another 527 group, called Jobs for Iowa, produced a 30 second TV ad that is airing in Iowa.  It does not mention the Straw Poll, but is a very professionally done commercial that promotes Perry’s record on creating jobs.  The pro-Perry forces are sensing a groundswell of support for the Texas Governor.

“The bottom line is we’ve come across enough folks in the last few weeks that have expressed an interest in having another voice in this race,” Schoenfeld said.  “If there wasn’t that feeling for another voice, you wouldn’t see that type of activity.  We wouldn’t be here doing what we’re doing.”

Write-ins have never been allowed on the Ames Straw Poll ballot before and there has never been a concerted effort to mobilize for an undeclared candidate.  Fred Thompson was garnering a lot of grassroots excitement in the summer of 2007, but did not declare his official candidacy until three weeks after the event.  He only picked up 203 votes.  That was mainly because the Thompson team put no effort into the Straw Poll.

A week and a half ago, when it was announced that Perry and Sarah Palin would not be allowed on the ballot, the Americans for Rick Perry group said they preferred to be excluded.   They felt Perry would be at a distinct disadvantage because he was not allowed a lot on the Straw Poll grounds and there was not enough time to organize a strong effort.  Obviously, there was a strategic change in the past few days.

A top three finish would provide Rick Perry’s likely candidacy an enormous boost, but it is virtually impossible to pull that off at this late date.  Americans for Rick Perry claim there is “no goal” for their efforts, but it makes one wonder what they really hope to accomplish by recruiting supporters to attend the event.  If Perry places above any of the six declared candidates who also bought space at the Ames Straw Poll, a devastating blow would be dealt to those other campaigns.  However, it is difficult to say how much that result helps Rick Perry.

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About the Author

Kevin Hall

Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson’s presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor’s office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad’s 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for

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