Strawn: there’s a “clear, bright line” for Thursday’s debate (audio)

Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn held a brief news conference this afternoon, discussing both the upcoming Straw Poll and Thursday’s candidate debate in Ames.

Audio of Strawn news conference; 10 minutes.

Strawn started by announcing RNC chair Reince Priebus will attend the Thursday night candidate debate in Ames (but not the Straw Poll on Saturday). Strawn suggested the presence of Priebus shows support to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status as other states (Hello AZ & FL) attempt to push forward in the presidential selection process.

Strawn also talked about the candidate line-up for Thursday’s debate, suggesting “there’s going to be some tension” between entities that are co-sponsoring such an event.  The tension, of course, is over who gets invited.  One of the requirements, or thresholds, for the candidates is to show they have “garnered at least an average of one percent in five national polls based on most recent polling.”  The candidate line-up is to be announced tomorrow (Tuesday, August 9).

The Iowa GOP State Central Committee had indicated at its last meeting that the party wants all the candidates who are listed on the Straw Poll ballot to be included in the debate.  The person of interest here may be Michigan Congressman Thaddeus McCotter, who told me last week he believes he’s met that criteria, but acknowledged he is in a “holding pattern” waiting for a decision.  “I hope to participate,” McCotter said, “because I’d love the opportunity discuss with Iowans may positions on the issues and give them a chance to consider them.”

The debate, however, is before a national TV audience, as it will be broadcast on the FOX News Channel. Strawn today offered this: “Where we are now with the criteria, there’s a clear, bright line relative to polling information and you’re either on one side of it or you’re not.”

Strawn address the Straw Poll results, suggesting the final tally may be announced “not too long after” four o’clock central on Saturday afternoon.

I asked what it might say if the total number of write-in votes for a variety of candidates who are not listed on the Straw Poll ballot eclipses the number of votes for the Straw Poll winner. “I’m not going to speculate on what may happen.  I tell you, this is interesting though, going around the state. You’ve had an opportunity to go to Iowa Caucus-goers as well. You know, they’re very deliberative right now and they want to get this decision right and there’s no question that the field is more fluid than it probably has been in recent history which, you know, might go into your question I think does put an increased relevance and importance on the Straw Poll because it really is the first time a regular voter, not responding to a pollster who is calling the house, but is making an affirmative move to come to Ames and then write, fill-in an oval next to a candidate’s name. It’s that first real measurable that we’ll have in an early state as part of the presidential nomination process.”