Later this afternoon, the Republican Party of Iowa will conduct its land auction for the Ames Straw Poll. The event will tell us who is actually participating in the event, and it also can give us clues as to how the campaigns intermingle with each other.
The Straw Poll land auction provides one of the first opportunities when campaigns are allowed to show a little gamesmanship. In 1999, the Forbes campaign was successful in driving up the cost for the plot of ground the Bush campaign wanted. That year Bush paid over $40,000 for his location, while Forbes paid just $8,000.
Four years ago, the auction was void of much action. Romney paid $25,000 for his space. Brownback secured his lot with an opening bid of $20,000, which was odd since nobody was bidding against him. The rest of the candidates were all within a few hundred dollars of the $15,000 minimum bid.
The best story from the 2007 land auction came as the lots became scarce. A bidding war broke out between two Ron Paul volunteers and Chad Olson, the current Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa, who at the time was working for Tommy Thompson. The choice of lots was down to two, one a flat piece of grass and the other on a slope.
Olson bid the minimum bid of $15,000, then the Ron Paul volunteers, who were only authorized to spend the $15,000, decided they would chip in a little on their own if they could get a better spot. Olson prevailed, but the two Paul volunteers made him spend more than he wanted.
It is expected that the campaigns of Tim Pawlenty, Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, and Fred Karger will all have representatives at the meeting. Like four years ago, it is expected that most lots will be purchased near the minimum price of $15,000. The most hotly sought after lots are near the voting areas. It’s one thing to get people to Ames, it’s another thing to actually make sure they vote once there. Two years ago, Sam Brownback and Mitt Romney had the best locations in that regard.
Today’s auction will help the Republican Party of Iowa cover the cost of renting the facility and providing the necessary infrastructure like security, medics, bathroom facilities, exterior lighting, and parking attendants. In 2007, the cost for just those things totaled $220,000. The campaign land auction only accounted for $137,300 that year.
With uncertainty about whether or not the Republican field is set, the one remaining obstacle that party officials will have do deal with is what to do with campaigns that are not even formally organized. While there is rampant speculation that Texas Governor Rick Perry will run, there is no official campaign, staff, bank account, or even campaign committee. The same would be true for others still rumored to be mulling over a run.
It is in the best interest for the Iowa GOP to let anyone who wants to participate in the event do so, but there are also some hard deadlines that the party must meet in preparing for the event. At the end of the day, the goal of this event from the Iowa GOP’s perspective is to showcase the candidates, highlight Iowa Republicans, and raise money. Getting someone like a Perry or Palin involved in the event would help meet all of those goals.
TheIowaRepublican.com will have more about today’s auction later today.
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