Iowa's Ames straw poll is a major test of organizational strength for GOP presidential candidates. The winner can expect a bump in the polls and fundraising numbers, while the losers could see their entire candidacies die. With so much on the line the campaigns work extremely hard to get their supporters to come out to the straw poll.
They'd prefer not to call it a bribe, rather simply "incentivizing."
Free transportation from just about anywhere in the state. Free burgers, barbecue and ice cream. Free tickets to the straw poll, which run $30. Often there's even free lodging, and there is always room for top-shelf entertainment.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum had to shush an audience member at a town hall in Ames Monday morning when she almost spilled the beans about his entertainment roster.
Later in the day Santorum's camp blasted out an email playing to Iowa's heartstrings by bringing in the Crickets, Buddy Holly's famous backup band from the 1950's.
Buddy Holly died in his prime back in 1959 when the small prop plane he was riding on with fellow musicians The Big Bopper - whose son will also play for Santorum -- and Richie Valence went down near Clear Lake, Iowa.
Don McLean immortalized the day Holly died in the song "American Pie."
This is an event that has great sentimental value for many Iowans.
However hard-boiled it is to point this out, the memory of Buddy Holly's tragic plane crash might not be the best political metaphor for a candidate who has found it tough going to get his campaign off the ground.