August 6th, 2007
10:02 AM ET
12 years ago

The march to Ames

The GOP candidates debated in Iowa on Sunday.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - Three months ago, political junkies were looking at August 11 as a watershed moment in the race for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination. It would be a day when the GOP field would be winnowed, perhaps a front-runner established and each of the candidates would stake out positions to distinguish themselves from one another.

Then John McCain and Rudy Giuliani announced they would skip the event, Fred Thompson arrived on the scene as the great unannounced candidate and McCain's campaign literally imploded. McCain and Giuliani cited financial reasons for their decision to bypass the straw poll. A few weeks later, we learned why McCain was opting out - he had no money. As for Thompson, well, he continues to "explore" a White House bid and will not play in Ames on Saturday.

So, will the GOP straw poll matter? Of course it will. A couple of 2nd and 3rd tier candidates might abandon their quixotic bids if they have a bad showing. A strong performance by one of the lower tier candidates coupled with a weaker than expected showing by odds-on-favorite Mitt Romney could spur questions about the former Massachusetts governor's presidential bid. And loyal Republican caucus goers will get a better sense on this hot August day about who they might support when the temperature dips below freezing in January.

For now, Iowa caucus goers are frosty on the current slate of candidates, according to a Washington Post/ABC News poll released on Sunday. Only one-fifth of Republican caucus-goers responded that they were "very satisfied" with the current slate of GOP candidates. Romney, who has spent the most money and time organizing in the state, leads the pack with 26 percent and is followed by Giuliani, who rings in at 14 percent. McCain has dropped to the single digits, while the yet-to-officially announce Thompson checks in at 13 percent.

The nine candidates had a chance Sunday to make a mark and separate themselves from the pack in a presidential primary debate broadcast on ABC's "This Week." They failed. While Romney and Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kansas, did spar over abortion, there was very little meaningful disagreement over major issues such as Iraq. There was a united willingness to distance themselves from President Bush and most of the stinging criticism (save for the Brownback-Romney exchange) was directed at Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois. At the end of the 90 minute exchange, arguably it was Obama who was the true winner.

- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston

Filed under: Iowa
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Anonymous

    Why are the HTML addresses in this story not hotlinks?

    August 6, 2007 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  2. RSBell, Stone Mountain, Georgia

    "...there was very little meaningful disagreement over major issues such as Iraq."

    Are you kidding? Did you hear Dr. Ron Paul's perspective on Iraq? If that is not defined as a "meaningful disagreement" then nothing ever will...

    August 6, 2007 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  3. Ian, Eastham MA

    "there was very little meaningful disagreement over major issues such as Iraq"

    Hey Mark – Did you watch the Debate? Ron Paul had MAJOR and MEANINGFUL disagreement over MOST issues! He is totally different than all the rest of the GOP pack. So why do you ignore him?

    Is this news or just opinion? It’s starting to look like you’re purposely trying to mislead people.

    August 6, 2007 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  4. bret, atl, ga

    Ron Paul wins, and the firestorm begins. You heard it here first.

    August 6, 2007 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  5. Jim, Woodstock, IL

    None of the candidates distanced themselves from the pack? No disagreement over major issues? You must have missed the responses by Congressman Paul. You probably missed all the applause he generated as well.

    August 6, 2007 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  6. Adam Bennett, Clearwater, Florida

    Why is Obama a "true winner" for drawing "stinging criticism"?

    The GOP candidates' attacks resonated with Clinton's position that Obama is inexperienced and probably helped her campaign more than his.

    August 6, 2007 10:56 am at 10:56 am |
  7. IV, Dallas

    It says nothing but good about Obama when the people attacking him are a team-up of Hillary Bush-Lite Clinton, John Amnesty McCain, and Mitt Flip-Floppin' Romney!

    August 6, 2007 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  8. Eustace, New York, NY

    Ron Paul did stand out against all the candidates, he is the only one who seems to had anything meaningful and unrehearsed to say.

    I liked that you mentioned that arguably Barack Obama was the winner...when you have democrats and republicans hammering at know you've gotten their attention. When you dictate the news cycle and debates for the past week you know you are taking risks...good political strategy Obama

    Obama 08

    August 6, 2007 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  9. Yocasta, Washington DC


    why bother??? CNN have made a point in IGNORING all the meaningfull candidates and just keep talking about the same OLD-stories.... e.i their self-declared "front-runners"... hopefully ALL of them run out-of-gas soon enough and CNN and all other news media will be forced to talk about the reall candidates!!!

    August 6, 2007 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  10. Walter Jackson Chicago, IL

    I think it's laughable that they spent so much time criticizing Obama's comment on attacking a verified terrorist target in Pakistan because they are an ally, and they ignored Tancredo's comment to bomb a Muslim Holy site in Mecca or Medina which are in Saudi Arabia also an ally.

    What's really funny is that none of them disagreed with what Obama would do, just that he said it.

    I guess they had to jump on democrats since they only things the Republican disagree on are fringe issues like is abortion and gay marriage. On real issue like the war, the economy and healthcare they're all the same, and that is out of touch with most Americans.

    August 6, 2007 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  11. Greg, Phoenix, AZ

    Very objective piece, Mr. Preston. Nice to see a reporter with no agenda whatsoever!

    Guys, let's not forget this is CNN we are talking about. The Republicans will get no fair shake from CNN so there is no reason to lose sleep over it.

    Fortunately, most Americans are aware of CNN's allegiance to all things Democrat and will not let this mindless tripe affect their votes one way or another.

    August 6, 2007 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. John Thomas, Edina, MN

    lol I didn't catch that last part about "no major disagreement." Come on Mark; are you completely delusional or just ignorant? Ron Paul's stance on the war varies DRASTICALLY from any of the other candidates in EITHER party.

    August 6, 2007 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  13. Jason, Seattle, WA

    I know who Ronald Regan would support!

    “Ron Paul is one of the outstanding leaders fighting for a stronger national defense. As a former Air Force officer, he knows well the needs of our armed forces, and he always puts them first. We need to keep him fighting for our country.”

    Ronald Regan

    Ron Paul was one of Ronald Regan’s first supporters by the way. People who consider themselves conservatives and republicans and yet still bash Ron Paul need to do some more reading and self reflection.

    August 6, 2007 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  14. Pat, Huntington, NY

    As for the comment "Guys, let’s not forget this is CNN we are talking about. The Republicans will get no fair shake from CNN so there is no reason to lose sleep over it" – I totally disagree. CNN provided balanced objective coverage of both major parties. Very different story with FOX NEWS, aka the Republican Propaganda Network.

    August 6, 2007 02:12 pm at 2:12 pm |
  15. Reeve, Oklahoma City, OK

    Ron Paul can and will win the Straw Poll. There are thousands of volunteer R.P. supporters on the ground campaining as we speak. The only question is: when Ron Paul wins the straw poll will CNN report it?

    August 6, 2007 03:11 pm at 3:11 pm |
  16. Brad, Columbia, SC

    I agree that it's absurd the way the media drool over Fred "Undeclared" Thompson while ignoring real candidates like Ron Paul.

    Also unacceptable is the way the media would rather cover the latest Clinton-Obama non-spat or the Edwards' anniversary dinner than Dennis Kucinich's repeated willingness to stick his neck out on major issues.

    It's a reflection on both the state of media today and the Americans who consume it.

    August 6, 2007 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  17. Tom, Huxley, IA

    "...McCain's campaign literally imploded."

    Arghhh! I hate it when reports use the word "literally." The campaign did not literally implode. In order for that to happen, the bodies of the campaign workers would ACTUALLY and PHYSICALLY have to cave-in on themselves. People would be dead and it would be bigger news.

    August 6, 2007 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  18. Shawnie - Grants Pass, OR

    The author of this article says
    "At the end of the 90 minute exchange, arguably it was Obama who was the true winner."

    OK, so why didn't the Republicans want to participate in CNN's debate? It could be the abundance of ridiculous media slant and this article is case in point.

    August 6, 2007 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  19. Jacob Bofferding, Minneapolis MN

    Stop throwing every Republican candidate in the same basket. Ron Paul is completely different than all of them, mostly because actually represents conservative values.

    Paul drew firestorms of applause, even made Mitt Romney interupt him to say niavely, "Has he forgotten about 9/11?" That comment came when Paul was criticizing the Iraq war, which had nothing to do with 9/11 despite Romney's fear mongering.

    So again, stop saying they are all the same. There were plenty of Bush clones on that stage, but also one Ron Paul.

    August 6, 2007 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  20. Pam Dallas TX

    I hope the straw poll does weed out a few of the candidates. As amusing as Tommy Thompson's many gaffes have been, it's getting embarrassing for even the audience now. Props to Paul's 9 supporters. They are sure working hard for their candidate!

    August 6, 2007 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  21. Eric, Staten Island, NY

    Anyone want to bet that Ron Paul finishes second or third in the Ames poll and turns the GOP field on its head?

    August 6, 2007 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  22. Charles, MA

    Hey Jason from Seattle, WA:



    ....and he was a cretin sock puppet.

    I like Ron Paul for his ability to actually have a stance that is not dictated by the media or the religious right, but there is no way he is going to win the election if he thinks he can abolish the IRS. His foreign policy is sound but his domestic policy stinks.

    August 7, 2007 02:54 am at 2:54 am |
  23. Ian, Eastham MA

    "The only question is: when Ron Paul wins the straw poll will CNN report it?

    Yes, and the headline will be "Iowa Straw poll has been overrun by spam bots".

    August 7, 2007 11:20 am at 11:20 am |