Until this past weekend, what I knew about the Ames Straw Poll was limited to textbook knowledge. I knew it was a vote of Iowa Republicans, taken on a Saturday in August on years there is an undecided Republican candidate for President.
This year I decided to drive to Ames with my husband and the Political CHIPS camera to see what I could learn. I'm so glad I made the trip. Meeting on the beautiful campus of Iowa State University, it wasn't hard to find the action. Several large white tents dotted the park like setting around the Hilton Coliseum, surrounded by thousands of people! The atmosphere was somewhere between a small county fair and a political convention! There were bands, media trucks, food, and lots of free stuff - I may never need another tee shirt! In addition to the large tents for the candidates themselves, there were tents for different political groups and causes. I enjoyed a visit to the Fair Tax booth, shook Mike Huckabee's hand, chatted with Krista Branch and watched my husband join the NRA - to name a few! While this activity happened outside in the tents, you could go in the Hilton Coliseum to hear the candidates address the crowd. If you just happened to be in the right place at the right time, you might run into a candidate outside. I was lucky enough to find Herman Cain and Rick Santorum outside and hear them speak. When it was time for a particular candidate to speak inside the coliseum, many of his supporters would join together and 'parade' through the area, carrying signs and chanting as they made their way inside.
A few months ago, the Political CHIPS team traveled to Des Moines for the CP PAC. At that time, I met former Iowa State Representative, Dennis Freeman. Rep. Freeman, a lifelong Republican, was intrigued by the Tea Party and we entered into a long and interesting conversation. We have stayed in touch since that time and I have learned a lot from him. He met with us early in the day to give us tickets and then took us to dinner that evening. He even treated us to a ride in his restored, 1968 red convertible! He explained that the Straw Poll is a major fund raiser for the Iowa Republican Party! Tickets are $30.00 each and you have to have one to vote or enter the Coliseum. Some candidates purchase the tickets for voters, but everyone must have one. He said that the excitement of this years Poll was OFF THE CHARTS! It was nice to have his perspective, or I would not have realized how charged the atmosphere was this year.
I believe the Ames Straw poll is a HUGE indication of the election year we are moving into. The American people are waking up and speaking out and becoming involved. Think about it! Over sixteen thousand people gave up their Saturday to go vote for who they want to see run for President. There are hundreds of details I would love to share, but there just isn't room! The main thing is for all of us to take this election seriously. It's time to look at each candidate and learn who they are and what they stand for! Don't let the media dictate who we want as president.
What a fun day! My husband is still trying to figure out why I would call this the best date ever! I guess I'm addicted!