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June 24th, 2011

Winners and Losers of Straw Poll Auction

By Craig Robinson

All of the fireworks at the Republican Party of Iowa’s Straw Poll Auction made for an interesting list of winners and losers.  Below is my take on how campaigns faired.


Rick Perry: It should be impossible for a non-candidate to make this list, let alone come away as the biggest winner of the Iowa Straw Poll auction.  That’s exactly what happened when the current crop of campaigns at the meeting freaked out and threatened to walkout of the straw poll auction when a well-known Republican attorney showed up at the meeting to bid for an anonymous soon-to-be candidate.

It was eventually disclosed that the attorney who was there was representing the eventual campaign of Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter.  Still, the absolute meltdown of the perceived Iowa frontrunners should send a clear message to the Governor’s mansion in Austin that nobody feels comfortable with where their campaigns are at in Iowa at this point.

Thaddeus McCotter: So let me get this straight.  McCotter didn’t want to disclose that he was bidding on a lot because he didn’t want it to overshadow his planned trip to Iowa and his eventual announcement that is sure to follow.  It might have not gone as planned, but McCotter got huge buzz from sending a mystery woman to the meeting.  I guess one could say that he has already rocked the Straw Poll.

It’s also fitting that McCotter grabbed, what I believe, is the second best available lot.  McCotter has the same location that Mike Huckabee had four years ago.  Maybe there is an unwritten rule that the candidate who purchases that space has to be able to play the guitar.  Talk about making a splash.

Ron Paul: The Ron Paul Revolution will take center stage at the Iowa Straw Poll now that Paul has purchased the same lot that has hosted the previous two winners of the event, Mitt Romney and George W. Bush.  Paul had to pay a hefty price, $31,000, but the space is the closest of any other to the voting locations.  The elevated walkways that will surround the Paul compound make it an ideal spot for the media to use as a backdrop.

The Republican Party of Iowa: Party officials were on the verge of having a heart attack when all the campaigns threatened to walkout of the auction.  Thankfully cooler heads prevailed, and the concerns of the campaigns were addressed.  With six candidates all confirmed for the event, the Iowa GOP now knows it will actually have a Straw Poll.  As was apparent yesterday, pulling off this event is no easy task.  It’s a high-stakes game, and the party was able to get all the major players in Iowa to put in their ante.  Now they just need to sell some tickets.

The Iowa GOP also created some goodwill with the campaign when it moved the date that the lots needed to be paid for from June 30th to July 1st.  Doesn’t seem like much but when it comes to the world of campaign finance, that one day means a lot.

Neither Winners nor Losers

Michele Bachmann: Bachmann secured a highly visible space for $17,000.  That price has to seem like a bargain to them after they ran up the price on the lot that Ron Paul bought for $31,000.  There must be an unwritten rule with this lot as well since it’s the same space Tom Tancredo had four years ago.  Both Bachmann and Tancredo are good friends of Congressman Steve King.

The Bachmann location allows flexibility that other lots don’t offer.  There are plenty of hard surfaces and grass areas to put up large tents.  Grass surfaces allow the tents to be staked instead of ballasted, which saves time and money.  The location is not bad in terms of voting, but other lots are closer to the polls.

Rick Santorum: Santorum’s lot is quite spacious and has plenty of trees that will provide afternoon shade. When the temperatures approach 100 degrees in August, shade trees are a nice commodity to have. The lot does not have enough open green space to put a tent on, so he will have to build something on the parking lot. The advantage of lot six is its proximity to the voting booth on the north side of Hilton Coliseum.

Duncan Hunter occupied the space four years ago. Like Santorum, Hunter was a full spectrum conservative who talked about foreign policy and middle class jobs, while also having a strong pro-family record.

Herman Cain: There is a theme emerging as Cain’s lot is the same space that businessman John Cox occupied four years ago.  The lot is located north of the Scheman building, which contains the main voting hub of the event.  The only problem is that the voting is only assessable from the south side of the building.  I think it’s safe to say that Cain will do better than Cox.  Cox only received 41 votes.


Tim Pawlenty: The Pawlenty campaign was outbid on multiple lots and ultimately selected a large grassy area located on the southeast corner of Hilton Coliseum.  The lot is separated from all of the other campaigns and vendors.  They will be walled off from the rest of the action by the scores of satellite trucks that park on the south side of the building.  Not only is the lot isolated from everything else, it’s also the farthest away from the voting booths.

For a campaign that has launched the first TV ad, sent the first mail piece, hired the most staff, and has been announcing endorsements daily, getting outbid by McCotter and everybody else seems inconceivable.  Rumors have also been floating around for a while now that Pawlenty has reserved 200 buses as well as a Christian band to perform in Ames.  Again, Pawlenty’s actions don’t fit his lot selection.

Pawlenty better hope for good weather.  If it rains, his area is going to be soggy.

Newt Gingrich: Gingrich has vowed that he will turn his struggling campaign around, and has indicated that part of his plan to do that is campaigning hard in Iowa.  While I doubt that his campaign can recover, I do agree that Iowa is the one place that would give him a second chance.  He likely didn’t have the financial resources to purchase a lot, and even if he did, he has no staff to turn people out to support him.  Not being on the stage in Ames is a mistake if he really thinks Iowa can be his Waterloo.

Fred Karger: If you don’t know who Fred is, don’t worry, you’re not alone.  As a gay rights activists Karger has used intimidation to advance his cause.  Unlike the previous presidential debates, the Republican Party of Iowa established rules that would allow Karger to participate.  For one reason or another he took a pass.  What a fool.

Purchasing a lot at the Iowa Straw Poll would have been the best $15,000 he could have ever spent, since it would have allowed him to speak on the stage.  Having been to CPAC during the whole GOProud fiasco, it’s safe to say the media would have given him plenty of attention.

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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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