Washington Post 08-08-07 It's not official, but Iowa straw poll has draw

Washington Post
It's not official, but Iowa straw poll has draw
GOP candidates raise the stakes for political tradition
Washington Post
High on the list of superpowers a campaign might wish for would be the ability to
manipulate opinion surveys, and on Saturday in Ames, Iowa, Republican
presidential contenders will get to live that dream through the Iowa straw poll.
The event, a tradition in election cycles in which there is no GOP incumbent, is
billed as an indicator of how party members will vote in the Republican caucus in
January. Any voting-age Iowan or Iowa college student with a $35 ticket has a
Few of the 40,000 people who are expected to descend on Iowa State
University on Saturday have to pay. The campaigns are more than happy to
cover the entrance fee — and so much more.
Republican presidential candidates lure Iowans to Ames with not only free
tickets, but also transportation, food and entertainment.
Before heading in to give a short speech, candidates will hold forth in the tents
that each campaign rents around the Hilton Coliseum. This year's favorite, former
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, advertises "music, barbecue and a whole lot
of fun at our tent" on his Web site. The proceeds from ticket sales, tent rentals,
parking, etc., will go to the Iowa Republican Party.
Ames is important for more than just the state party's bottom line. For candidates
trailing in reliable, representative polls and in fundraising, Ames may prove
critical. After all, failure to do well in a poll for sale is often seen as an
organizational indictment.