Recapping the 2011 Ames Straw Poll

Daily Staff

After a full day of carnival-like activities, free food and political stumping, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota was named the winner of the 2011 Ames Straw Poll.

Bachmann had campaigned heavily in Iowa and was expected to win. Rep. Ron Paul,  a congressman from Texas, was a close second, with only 152 votes separating him from Bachmann.

A total of 16,892 Iowans voted in the poll, and hundreds of members of the press were also present. 

Want more? You can revisit our live coverage here.

1. Michele Bachmann: R-Minn., congresswoman

Votes: 4,823 (28.5 percent)

Attractions: With a variety of food offerings, Bachmann’s tent along Lincoln Way had long lines and steady crowds throughout the day. She featured country singer Randy Travis and other live entertainment. She also had several golf carts, which were ubiquitous as volunteers transported voters from their cars to her tent.

Talking points: Bachmann, who was born in Waterloo, stressed her family’s Iowa roots.

“I tell people everything I needed to know in life, I learned in Iowa,” she said, to applause from the crowd. “I’ve always been grateful that I’m an Iowan, and I think it’s time we have an Iowan in the White House.” She called Iowa the “pace car” for bringing America back to greatness. 

Bachmann went on to discuss social issues, including abortion, traditional marriage and religious liberty.

“In Iowa, we are social conservatives, and we will never be ashamed of being social conservatives,” she said.

“You showed the world when you did not retain those three justices in your last election,” she said, vowing to appoint judges who would not legislate from the bench if she is elected. 

She also spoke on the economy and national security.

2. Ron Paul: R-Texas, congressman

Votes: 4,671 (27.6 percent)

Attractions: Paul spent the most money — reportedly $31,000 — for the prime spot near the entrance to the voting areas. His numerous tents filled an area behind the Scheman building that was larger than that of any other candidate. The candidate, known for being fiscally conservative, also had a “Prosperity Playground,” with a large inflatable slide called “The Sliding Dollar” and a dunk tank themed around Ben Bernanke, chairman of the Federal Reserve.

Talking points: Paul’s speech was unique for being somewhat graphic. He said he became strongly pro-life during medical school in the 1950s after witnessing a caesarian section where the “crying and breathing” baby was left to die.

“I believe in a very limited role for government, but the prime reason that government exists in a free society is to protect liberty, and also to protect life — and I mean all life,” he said.

He transitioned by saying the preciousness of children’s lives should be honored by not forcing them to fight in “undeclared, unwinnable wars” when they grow up. He also spoke out against the Patriot Act and airport-security screeinings by the Transportation Security Administration.

“You never have to give up liberties to be safe,” he said.

Paul also spoke against ongoing wars and the nation’s debt crisis. 

“We’re into wars that are costing us trillions of dollars. Those trillions of dollars should’ve been left in the economy to build jobs and produce prosperity here at home.”

3. Tim Pawlenty R-Minn., Former governor

Votes: 2,293 (13.6 percent)

Attractions: Pawlenty’s tent was tucked away from the others, along University Boulevard. He featured a local band called The Nadas and barbeque from the Minnesota-based chain Famous Dave’s. However, his crowd began to dwindle in the afternoon.

Talking points: Appearing onstage with his wife and two daughters, Pawlenty launched his speech with a Ronald Reagan reference and a jab at the president. 

“We know what America needs,” he said, “but unfortunately Barack Obama has absolutely no clue. He is like a manure spreader in a windstorm.” 

He had the crowd chanting “no” against Obama’s “rhetoric,” before asking “Is it time for Barack Obama to go?” He got a “yes” from the crowd.

4. Rick Santorum: R-Penn., Former U.S. senator

Votes: 1,657 (9.8 percent)

Attractions: Santorum had a slightly smaller, but steady crowd, and he spent a lot of time interacting with his supporters.

Talking points: Appearing with his wife and five of his seven children, Santorum stressed the importance of family.

“I will not back down on the sanctity of life and the integrity of the American family,” he said. 

Santorum also discussed the Founding Fathers and the ideology of early America, and spoke against “Obamacare.”

“Obamacare is the single greatest threat to one generation’s charge of handing this country off to the next generation freer, safer and more prosperous,” he said.

5. Herman Cain: R-Ga., Former chairman and CEO of Godfather’s Pizza

Votes: 1,456 (8.6 percent)

Attractions: Naturally, Cain served Godfather’s Pizza. Campaign staff also installed a bounce house for children to play in. However, Cain’s tent was next to Bachmann’s larger one, leaving it slightly overshadowed.

Talking points: Cain began by naming several “crises” he sees as major threats to the nation, ultimately including a “severe deficiency of leadership.”

“The people of this nation, they’re tired of excuses. They want responsibility and leadership,” he said. “The people of this great nation, they’re tired of the blame game. They want results. And results we can get, with the right person in the White House.”

Focusing on the economy, he said the nation needed to be changed from an “entitlement society” to an “empowerment society.” He also said America should look to its own natural resources and “be its own best customer” for energy needs.

He also spoke on illegal immigration, saying legal immigration should be promoted and that the states should be given more power on the issue.

He often stated his plans in simple terms.

“Clearly, identify who our friends are, clearly identify who our enemies are, and stop giving money to our enemies,” he said on the subject of foreign policy.

6. Mitt Romney, R- Mass., Former governor

Votes: 567 (3.3 percent)

Romney, the winner of the 2007 Ames Straw Poll, did not attend this year’s event and has not campaigned heavily in Iowa. However, he is still seen as a frontrunner in the race for the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination.

7. Newt Gingrich: R-Ga., Former Speaker of the House

Votes: 385 (2.3 percent)

8. Jon Huntsman: R-Utah, Former governor

Votes: 69 (0.4 percent)

Gingrich and Huntsman also chose not to attend the straw poll.

9. Thaddeus McCotter: R-Mich., congressman 

Votes: 35 (0.2 percent)

Atmosphere: McCotter had a stage and played music (the congressman was once in a bipartisan band). However, he failed to draw a large crowd.

Talking Points: After an opening quip about his own receding hairline, McCotter criticized the Obama administration, decried big government and looked to opportunities that could be seized by “the party of Lincoln and Reagan.”

To catch up to the “global age” we all live in, McCotter called not only for a shrinking of the federal government, but a complete restructuring, giving more power to the individual and taking it away from big government.

He emphasized the importance of free-market economics and self-government, saying that if elected he would “not work for the pundits, not work for the bundlers, not work for the powerful,” but instead “work for the people.”

McCotter also focused on the military, its presence overseas and the reality that “we remain and will be a nation at war,” saying, “It is heartbreaking to note that we cannot bring [troops] home as quickly as our hearts wish them to be.”


Write-in candidates recieved 162 votes.