Iowa Press Talk Politics

This is a rush transcript from "Special Report," August 10, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

REP. RON PAUL, R-TX, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We may do quite well on Saturday. I have no idea, exactly. I don't mak e predictions. But it's significant. It's significant for me personally. It's significant for our campaign. It's significant for the cause of liberty.

MITT ROMNEY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think the people of Iowa are far less concerned with the process of politics and far more concerned about the future of America.

TIM PAWLENTY, R - PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What we need in this late hour at a time when our country is sinking, when our country is drowning, is strong leaders who are going to roll up their sleeves and put their shoulders back and their head down and drive this thing to conclusion.


BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Some of the candidates here in Iowa ahead of the big debates. And there is a new poll out, Fox News poll. You see Romney -- this is a national poll obviously, Governor Perry at 13 percent, Sarah Palin, who is obviously not in yet, eight percent. There you see a write-in for Mike Huckabee at three percent, and Tim Pawlenty at two percent and how the poll stacks up there.

Let's get some thoughts from some people who cover Iowa every day and what they think about this week's events and what is happening here. Joining me now here in Ames, Kathie Obradovich, political columnist for The Des Moines Register, Dave Price, political reporter for WHO-TV here -- in Des Moines rather, and Kay Henderson, news director for Radio Iowa. Thanks so much for being here.

You know, as you see these candidates out and about, let's start with you. Do you think -- give us a sense of what the feeling is ahead of the debate, how important is it for these candidates, and who stands to gain the most.

KATHIE OBRADOVICH, "DES MOINES REGISTER": This debate is really important for candidates and not just because the straw poll follows it. There's kind of two dynamics. One, you have a national debate with a national field of candidates. And then there's sort of a mini debate going on with the candidates who really need to do well in the straw poll. So, you know, I think that people are going to be using this debate to try to advance different campaign purposes. And it'll be interesting to see how that dynamic plays out.

BAIER: Dave, ya know with all the turmoil in the markets, the focus on the economy, you know, how does that play here? How important is all of that? Obviously it's important across the country, but here in Iowa?

DAVE PRICE, WHO-TV: Right. And that is what they are talking about now. It doesn't matter who you go see, Bachmann, Santorum, Paul, Pawlenty, anybody, they talk about the economy from start to the finish so they know that's the biggest thing out there right now.

BAIER: But Kay, social issues seem to play high in Iowa. If you were to stack the importance, can you do it?

KAY HENDERSON, RADIO IOWA: Well, I think the economy has eclipsed social issues right now to the extent that you have outside groups from Washington, D.C. who have actually bussed into the state to go around and encourage Iowans to sort of rev up the talk about social issues. And frankly, people who care most about social issues already know where the candidates stand on those issues.

BAIER: Organizationally, Kay, do you see a campaign that's standing out in your mind here in Iowa?

HENDERSON: Well, of course, Governor Pawlenty has amassed I think, the most talented campaign crew on the ground here. The Bachmann folks started in June. And they have gone out of the gates very hard. They are campaigning hard here.

But I would point to Ron Paul. The man who is running Ron Paul's campaign managed the campaign of Pat Robertson in 1987 who won this straw poll not far from where we are sitting today.

BAIER: Ya know people at home, Dave, don't really have a full appreciation of a straw poll number one. And what it means here in Iowa, number two. I mean, for somebody sitting on the couch, who maybe doesn't follow politics all the time, what do you say to them?

PRICE: There is, to put it in perspective, there are three million people in this state. And only probably somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 people will be here Saturday and actually vote. So you can see how much attention those 10,000 to 15,000 people get. It's a huge deal. But you are talking about a microcosm of the population that will have a big say in who survives past Saturday.

BAIER: Because Kathie, that is kind of what the caucuses are as well, a microcosm, because it's not the whole state that comes out in the caucuses, but more obviously than the straw poll. But it is very organizationally-based.

OBRADOVICH: Exactly. We consider this to be sort of like a dry run for the caucuses. The caucuses test campaign's ability to get people out in the middle of the winter to spend two hours at a community meeting. While the straw poll is an even bigger lift than that because people have to come from all over the state. There is a $30 admission charge to vote in the straw poll. So you really have the opportunity for the campaigns to really show what they've got. And that is one of the reasons why you get so much attention at this stage of the game.

BAIER: Do agree with Kay, about the organization, how it's setting up?

OBRADOVICH: I do. I mean the three that she mentioned, Bachmann, Pawlenty, and Paul, I would say those would be in my top three picks to finish in the straw poll.

BAIER: And for folks here when they get through this week and you start heading towards the caucuses, are they cocky about how much attention they get from presidential candidates?


OBRADOVICH: I don't know about cocky, but I think that they do expect it. I mean they have come to expect it. And when they don't get it, they get kind of miffed.

BAIER: Dave?

PRICE: I think it's -- I don't think people would be cocky about it either. But there is that expectation. And when you talk to people who go to an event, they definitely expect the chance to reach out and shake the candidate's hand first, but then secondly to actually talk and ask them a question. And they'll go away mad if they didn't get that chance.

BAIER: Which is unique. Ya know Iowa, New Hampshire, that's pretty much it.

HENDERSON: I think the unique thing about this is that while people focus on how Iowans view this process, this is a process that really is a crucible test for the candidates. And it really helps them hone their message. When you are giving the same speech eight, 10 times a day, it really makes you a better messenger of your own campaign if you have to do that on a regular basis.

BAIER: That's right. Kay, Dave, Kathie, thanks so much. We're going to keep them around for "Special Report" online. We're going to ask them questions, so make sure you log in.

That's it for this panel, but stay tuned for some final thoughts from Iowa.

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