Late Returns: Will Ames Be Pawlenty's Waterloo?

05/16/2011 06:25 pm ET | Updated Jul 19, 2011

We're now 90 days away from the Ames Straw Poll, and if you're like me, you haven't even figured out what you're going to wear. This year, the Straw Poll -- which, since 1979 has been held every presidential election cycle that lacked a Republican presidential incumbent -- will be held on Aug. 17, and of course, Iowa politicos say that because the race currently lacks an "obvious leader ... or even an obvious lineup," it will be more important than ever!

"It's wide open, and I think it's extremely unpredictable," said Mary Cownie, a former spokeswoman for the Iowa Republican Party.

Politics insiders in Iowa say the dynamics of the race will make this year's nonbinding event in Ames different from past years: More than anything, it could be a way to get a second-tier ticket punched, or serve as a path to legitimacy for someone who's betting it all on Iowa.

That's from Jennifer Jacobs at the Des Moines Register, who reports that the current lineup in Ames is "Michele Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Santorum," with the possibilities that other potential candidates, like Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin, may get in as well. The absence of Mike Huckabee is noteworthy in that as a second-place finisher in the last Straw Poll and the winner of Iowa's 2008 caucuses, he would have been expected to perform well. There's also a special note that there's "still time on the clock" for a "wild card" to join the field.

According to the Register, "top Iowa operatives" have "outlined a number of possible scenarios." For Tim Pawlenty, it seems pretty dire:

Pawlenty appears poised for a full-out run at a high straw poll finish. He's working from the traditional playbook that calls for a beefy Iowa team, the choicest strategists, a big cash outlay and a top finish in Ames to be viable. It's Iowa or bust, politics watchers said.

"He's put all his chips on the table early, so he needs to win the straw poll big or go home," said Christopher Rants of Sioux City, a political consultant and former Republican leader in the Iowa House.

I'm pretty sure that if you're Tim Pawlenty, you imagine your campaign as something that's going to live a bit longer than 90 days, and that this scenario is one of the last things you want to see in print right now. But that's just another day in the life of America's hardest-working/can't-catch-a-breakingest GOP candidate.


For what it's worth, Pawlenty tells the Iowa Independent: “I like the fact that folks have looked at the Republicans who ran last time and there is not a presumed front runner. That gives us some time and some space." Something Pawlenty would like slightly more than there being no presumed front-runner? Pawlenty leading the field by 20 points. [Iowa Independent]

Mitt Romney will now say lots of nice things about Michele Bachmann in order to get her to join with him, the way a remora joins a shark, and will ride that symbiotic relationship to world domination!! [The Corner]

Huckabee people are becoming Huntsman people in South Carolina, and yet the fact that Huntsman is seen as a relatively reasonable candidate is still said to be working against him. [The State; War Room @ Salon]

Gary Johnson's techno-funk robots have a PowerPoint presentation they'd like to show you that will help you imagine what America will be like under his presidency.

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