The GOP Horse Race

The Iowa Straw Poll is fast approaching, and Stacy McCain is there covering the Republican primary candidates. These early primary states annoy me, candidates spend all of there time and money there and the rest of us are treated like chopped liver. But I digress. Things are heating up. Stacy reported that the long knives are out. Let’s hope they don’t come out so far that whatever mud is slung doesn’t get used against the eventual candidate in the general election.

One report indicates that Herman Cain has raised the bar for his campaign, saying he needs to finish in the top three. We’ll see. There’s also some news about Rick Perry.

My phone just rang with a tip from a source who says his Texas sources tell him that Rick Perry is going to unofficially announce this weekend that he’s going to make an official announcement next week. So the Phantom Menace looms even larger now and, even worse: I just ran out of cigarettes.

That’s Stacy that’s out of cigarettes, not me.

He also posted the three videos playing all the time at Right Wing News. They include Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty and Rick Perry.

According to Sunshine State News, they aren’t the only contenders campaigning in Iowa this week.

With little more than a week to go until the Iowa straw poll in Ames, some of the Republican presidential candidates continued to beef up their operations in the Hawkeye State, which holds the first presidential caucus.

Having won a number of straw polls — including two held at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in 2010 and earlier this year — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas looked to continue his success in the events.

[…]

With former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, the current front-runner in the race, downplaying the straw poll, some of the underdogs in the race increased the pace of their efforts on Thursday as four of them campaigned in Iowa. U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter of Michigan campaigned in Altoona and Anamosa, while former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum held town hall events in Rock Rapids, Orange City and Sioux City. Businessman Herman Cain spoke in Des Moines and joined Santorum in speaking to the Professional Educators of Iowa in West Des Moines on Thursday night. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia campaigned in Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.

Despite the looming straw poll, on Thursday two of the Republican hopefuls focused on New Hampshire, home of the first primary. Former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah, who has said his campaign will do little in Iowa, spoke to the Salem Chamber of Commerce and Republicans in Derry, while former Gov. Gary Johnson of New Mexico, who was left out of the straw poll by the Iowa Republicans, campaigned in Concord, Manchester and Nashua.

The Romney campaign decided months ago not to put a lot of effort into Iowa. Earlier this week I heard a discussion about his strategy of laying low during this stage of the campaign. He’s raising money and releasing a lot of ads attacking Obama’s record on the economy, but other than that he’s keeping himself above the fray. I guess we’ll find out soon enough if that’s a good strategy.

Update: Katrina Trinko pointed out that Cain knows how to win straw polls. To know Herman Cain is to like Herman Cain.

“Cain gave just a barn-burner of a speech,” says John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute at Colorado Christian University, which organized the conference. “A lot of people told me they never dreamed of marking in their straw-poll ballot for Cain before they heard this speech.”

Perry and Santorum had received standing ovations. Cain’s speech drew an even more enthusiastic response: Twice, the crowd stood up in the middle of his speech, applauding wildly.

After the speech, some who had voted for another candidate pleaded to receive their ballots back so they could switch their vote to Cain. “We had people storming the information desk,” Andrews recalls. Ultimately, event organizers decided that attendees would not be allowed to switch their votes.

Nevertheless, Cain decisively won the straw poll, receiving 48 percent of the votes cast. Perry came in second, with 13 percent of the votes. Romney and Santorum tied at 10 percent, and tea-party favorite Michele Bachmann won 9 percent. …

Read the whole thing.