Big crowd for the Straw Poll

It appears attendance is much larger than the Straw Poll four years ago, more akin to the 1999 event here in Ames which was a showdown between the George W. Bush and Steve Forbes campaigns.  Iowa GOP co-chair Bill Schickle says it took him 45 minutes to make it from the Ames exit off I-35 into the parking lot by Hilton Colesium here in Ames.  (That’s like game day at Cyclone Stadium.)

“This is just a terrific gathering of grassroots people,” Schickel says. “For people old enough to remember, I call this the political ‘Woodstock’ of America.  I would see we’re a bit more clean cut.”

And there’s no mud.  It’s a beautiful day, clear skies and a cool breeze. Some folks stood in line for as long as an hour to vote today.  I stood on the sidewalk by the long lines of waiting voters and chatted. Carol Crouse of Boone voted for Michele Bachmann.

“I think she’s a real fighter,” Crouse said. “…Not just a bunch of verbiage, but she really believes what she’s standing for.”

Ralph Kiel of Norwalk voted for Ron Paul.”I’ve been listening to what he has to stay and he’s speaking the truth,” Kiel said. “He’s not pandering to an audience….Many people don’t like to hear what he says, but he says it anyway, so you’ve got to respect a guy who believes in that.”

Eric Holsapple of Ankeny said he “teetered back and forth” over the past few weeks about the race, and decided to vote for Tim Pawlenty.

“I like his strong views towards everything,” Holsapple said. “We need some changes in there and I think he’s going to be a good one to advocate for us.”

Joel Jollymore of Des Moines shook hands with Rick Santorum on the way through the parking lot, and told Santorum he was voting for him because of what happened in Thursday night’s debate.

“Dr. Paul was going to get my vote until he enunciated his policy on Iran, that they should be allowed to have nuclear weapons,” Jollymore said. “…It’s a very nieve position to say, ‘We’re just going to stay out of it.'”

Jollymore’s mother, Kittie Peacock of Des Moines, had intended to support Bachmann today, but switched to Santorum after hearing Santorum’s speech at the State Fair.

“He was giving Americans the why the constitution is so important,” she says. “…And I believe Reagan did that also, so American couuld get behind it and understand it and Rick was the only guy doing that, so I’m with Rick.”

Santorum walked through the fair-like atmosphere surrounding the Straw Poll voting site, following a bag piper.

Tom Noble of Des Moines lived in Texas for 13 years. He was wearing an “American for Perry” t-shirt and wrote Perry’s name in on the Straw Poll ballot.

“I think Texas is one of the best-positioned states in the union and I think Rick can bring that experience to Washington,” Noble said. “I think Rick’s very confident, a very long-term governor. He’s proven his leadership.”

Marla Carlson of Waterloo voted for Bachmann in the Straw Poll, and she’s not thrilled Texas Governor Rick Perry chose today to enter the race, and will show up in her city tomorrow.

“I think he should have waited until after all this to make his announcements,” Carlson said.

Perceived front-runner Mitt Romney skipped participating in the Straw Poll, but his name is on the ballot and he’s geting votes. John Armon (R-mun) of Cedar Rapids supported Romney today.

“He gets it. He understands what it takes to run a business. He’s run a business. He knows what drivers out economy,”Armon said. “The current administration doesn’t at all, so that’s why I’m for (Romney).”

Governor Branstad was among those who voted, but he isn’t telling who he voted for — or whether he may have used that write-in line on the Straw Poll ballot either.

“I’m not divulging anything,” Branstad told reporters, with a laugh. Branstad says he wants to be a good host, so he’s not publicly supporting a a candidate.

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.