THE BLOG
08/11/2007 04:38 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Serious Politics Smothered in BBQ Sauce

Ames, Iowa---"Don't take a picture of me! I'm only here voting for Mitt Romney because my candidate, Rudy Giuliani isn't here. But I don't want the Giuliani people to see me eating Mitt's BBQ," said a spry little lady in a bright yellow Romney Team T-shirt and a plate filled with juicy BBQ, chips, and baked beans.

This is just one example of the contradictions these presidential candidates face as they spend millions, travel thousands of miles, shake hundreds of hands, and fight for every vote - even if the vote doesn't count!

What other state can get away with this shim-sham?

The Straw Poll is basically a fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party. Oh well, since some of the candidates are taking it seriously, I guess we've got to go along with some of the program.

Most of the thirty two-thousand party loyalists casting a non-binding vote at the Ames Hilton Coliseum brought their children - and even their dogs - to munch on BBQ ribs and listen to eight of the Republican presidential candidates vying for their party's nomination including; Ron Paul, Tommy Thompson, John Cox, Mick Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Mitt Romney, Tom Tancredo, and Sam Brownback.

This Iowa Straw Poll's participation has been driven up by the addition of Internet marketing, serious advertising media buys, and well-organized candidates.

The Straw Poll is a test of a candidate's strength for the upcoming Iowa caucuses, now slated for January, with some pressure to move the date to mid-December 2007, the earliest date ever in U.S. history for a presidential primary kick-off.

Along with the candidates - all except McCain, Giuliani, and Thompson - the Straw Poll attracted single issue political organizations like mypoliticalpets.com, Arab American Republicans, Everyday Americans, Students for Social Security Reform, and Guns for America.

Whether they are offering home-baked cookies, dressed in thick, wooly ostrich outfits, or handing out literature, these single issue organizations and their young staffs will be traveling around the country, attending general political events in all the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina.

Attempting to influence active voters, these single issue groups are doing the heavy lifting that will hopefully drive their concerns to the top of party platforms and into the stump speeches of presidential candidates.

Twenty-four year old Evan Dent who wore a gruesomely hot ostrich suit all day in 90 plus heat and 100 degree plus humidity, said, "It was pretty toasty, but it's been great to be here, because we reached more active voters who have never heard of our Students for Social Security Reform movement."

Originally from Red Bluff, California and a graduate from Pepperdine University, Dent is moving to Concord, New Hampshire to dig her feathers into the first primary in the nation. (photo attached)

"70% of Iowa Republicans are pro-life and 46% vote for that reason according to the latest Iowa Poll," said Kim Lehman of Des Moines.

Standing in front of a 30 foot roll of paper with signatures from voters who have promised to caucus for a pro-life national Republican platform and only support candidates for president who are pro-choice, Lehman said, "We only want a Republican presidential candidate that is pro-choice and not all the candidates are."

While the kids stayed outside jumping in the bouncing house, climbing on the rock face, and tumbling down the giant inflatable slid with a carnival like atmosphere permeating the Straw Poll, their parents fled into the air-conditioned Hilton Coliseum to hear talk show host Laura Ingraham introduce the white men of the Republican Party working hard to become the next president of the United States.