When Iowans flock to the brutally hot August sun drenched campus of Iowa State University in Ames this Saturday, they will participate in the most important “meaningless” event so far in the presidential race for 2012.
It’s meaningless in that no delegates are selected who will count toward the nomination or even the mid-winter Iowa caucuses. It’s not a true test of broad and sweeping support since only real die-hards brave the heat and travel the miles to be part of a day-long political lollapalooza that is part county fair, part political convention, part media circus, and part endurance contest.
What the Iowa Straw Poll will test is the ability of candidates to actually organize and energize supporters. Those who choose not to participate usually have a lame excuse of “not wanting to invest the resources for something that doesn’t count.” Translation: “I fear I won’t do well and had rather run away than get embarrassed by getting defeated.”
With over 700 media representatives already credentialed, it will be the political event of the season and those not there will be ignored except to be noted for not showing up for the game. Those who do play have a lot to gain or lose.
If they exceed expectations, their campaigns will live to fight another day. If they fail to live up to expectations, it could well be the end of the line or at least, the beginning of the end. Perceptions created at the straw poll are sometimes impossible to overcome. Many a promising presidential candidate left his or her last drop of political blood in the shadow of the Hilton Coliseum on the grounds of Iowa State.
Saturday, a few will end the day with political momentum. Others will need a political mortician.