The August before an Iowa presidential caucus can feel more like the October before a general election as candidates amp up their attacks on their opponents and hit the campaign trail hard in the final days until people go to the polls. The build up before the Ames Straw Poll, an early proving ground for Republican presidential candidates, can be a make or break for those participating in the event.
There is plenty of activity going on in Iowa as the Straw Poll draws near. Rick Santorum has moved his entire family to Iowa to campaign all across the state with him. Tim Pawlenty is in the state almost as often, and Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul balance campaigning in Iowa with their duties in Congress.
Unlike previous caucus cycles, this one is currently being overshadowed but it’s not being overshadowed by a candidate who is avoiding the First-in-the-Nation caucus state like Mitt Romney. It’s not being overshadowed by candidates like Rick Perry and Sarah Palin who have yet to announce either. No, the lead up to Ames is being overshadowed by our nation’s monstrous debt and Washington’s inability to deal with it.
Two candidates, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul, have made the issue of the debt ceiling the central focus of their campaigns thus far. Both have vowed that they will not vote to increase the debt ceiling, but Paul scores additional points because he never has supported increasing the debt ceiling in his more than two decades in Congress.
Rick Santorum, whose campaign has been unable to run television ads, has repeatedly stated that congress should increase the debt ceiling, but in doing so, must also pass a balanced budget amendment. Tim Pawlenty’s ads also focus on debt, but his position isn’t as easy to identify, but like Santorum, he says he’s a supporter of the Cut, Cap, and Balance plan that passed the House but failed in the Senate.
Thaddeus McCotter spoke out in support of Speaker Boehner’s compromise late last week. That puts him in the same camp as Santorum and Pawlenty on the debt issue. Herman Cain has been absent from Iowa as of late, but he continues to state that he would not increase the debt ceiling under any circumstance. Texas Governor Rick Perry, who is yet to officially enter the race, echoes Cain’s position. Mitt Romney, the national frontrunner, has been careful not to weigh in on what Congress is doing.
It appears that a debt ceiling deal has now been reached, but how the two different camps of presidential candidates move forward will be interesting to watch. Like the rest of the country, Iowa Republicans are fed up with Washington’s inability to confront its spending problem. With the Straw Poll being only two weeks away, it seem likely that those who opposed raising the debt ceiling will be more in accord with the activists who are most likely to attend the event.
That’s good news for Bachmann and Paul who either have huge expectations in Ames, or have been planning to use the event to make a statement to the rest of the country. However, once the compromise is agreed to, the issue will likely fade a bit into the background. Another thing to consider is that the American people want a solution to the nation’s debt problem, not just opposition to increasing the debt ceiling or even the compromise that only kicks the can down the road.
Bachmann and Paul will probably get a short-term boost out of their clear opposition to the increase, and their positions will be magnified by their ability to actually vote no on the compromise deal. However, none of GOP Republican candidates are really on the wrong side of the issue, and those pushing for a balanced budget amendment as a necessary enforcement mechanism seem to be closer to getting to a solution to the nation’s problems.
Still, it’s going to be interesting to watch how the debt limit compromise will affect the Republican presidential race.
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