Supporters of Mitt Romney cheer Saturday at the Iowa straw poll in Ames.
AMES, Iowa (CNN)- The temperature’s rising here on the campus of Iowa State University, and the politics are heating up as well. Voting is underway at the Ames straw poll, the first crucial vote in the battle for the Republican Presidential Nomination. But while the voting takes place inside, some of the real action is going on outside.
It’s like a carnival atmosphere here, with music, rides, food, and of course, lots of politics. The eight GOP White House hopefuls taking part in the straw poll each have their own tents where supporters are gathering.
I just took a short walk through and saw that Sam Brownback came prepared. His campaign tent is the only one with air conditioning. A smart move by the Senator from Kansas, since the mercury’s expected to peak in the mid 90’s today. Brownback was just on stage, joined by his family, speaking to supporters. Outside Brownback’s tent, children are playing on rides and slides, including a climbing wall. It may be a political event, but it feels like an amusement park.
Next to the Brownback tent is the Romney compound. The former Massachusetts Governor has the largest operation in Ames, and it shows. On a large stage a bluegrass band is playing, just one of the many musical acts entertaining Romney supporters. The candidate’s five sons were also just on the stage, applauding supporters of their father’s bid for the White House.
Mike Huckabee also has a large area of tents for his supporters. The former Arkansas Governor is a minister. But a lesers known fact is that Huckabee plays bass guitar in a band, and right now he’s on stage, giving his supporters some musical politics. Team Huckabee is also keeping them cool by handing out chilled water bottles adorned with his name.
Rep. Duncan Hunter may be low in the national polls, but one of his supporters is standing 12 feet tall. The Hunter supporter is walking on stilts. Just part of the fun.
It’s not only the presidential candidates showing off here in Ames. There are booths for dozens of other political causes. The Fair Tax dot Org gang has a large hot air balloon. We’ve seen them at a number of the political debates so far this campaign season. They want to replace the federal income tax with a national sales tax.
A man dressed up as a snowman just walked by. He’s got a “make global warming a priority” sign on him. And with the mercury rising, who can blame him. But I feel sorry for the guy. It must be hot as heck under that snowman suit.
Just a few yards away is the Live Strong Bus. That’s the organization created by Tour De France winner Lance Armstrong, who’s also a cancer survivor. Live Strong sells those yellow wrist bracelets with proceeds going to help find a cure for cancer.
But wait, there’s more. I’ve been approached by what you could call some really longshot candidates for President. None of them are on the ballot today. They’re mostly one man bands, hoping for any attention. But that’s what makes this country so special. Anybody can run for President.
- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser