August 11th, 2007
09:17 PM ET
16 years ago

Iowa straw poll malfunction

AMES, Iowa (CNN) – A malfunctioning voting machine delayed the release of the results of the Iowa Republican Party straw poll by at least one hour Saturday, as GOP officials were forced to count more than 1,500 ballots by hand.

“There is a machine malfunction and they are simply recounting the ballots of one machine,” said Mary Tiffany, spokeswoman for the Iowa Republican Party. “There were 1,500 and some ballots. They are simply recounting them for accuracy.”

Tiffany estimated that between 13,000 and 15,000 people voted in Saturday’s straw poll. The malfunctioning machine was one of 18 used by the Iowa GOP to count the ballots.

- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston

Filed under: Iowa
August 11th, 2007
07:44 PM ET
16 years ago

Obama: Enough with the 'black enough' talk

Sen. Barack Obama greets attendees at the National Association of Black Journalists Conference in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (CNN)Sen. Barack Obama hasn’t been shy about his distaste for circumstances that call for one-liners and sound bites. But sitting among thousands at the National Association of Black Journalists Convention Friday afternoon, it was easy to see why Obama thrives in a setting where he can just talk, up close and personal.

Belying his past job as a law professor, “Professor Obama” appeared relaxed and at ease, engaging in an easygoing discussion on a variety of issues and often joking with moderator Byron Pitts, a national correspondent for CBS.

But then Pitts asked that last question: What gives Obama hope that America is ready for a black president? The room fell eerily silent. The barrage of camera shutters tapered off quickly. The cavernous ballroom was standing room only, a stark contrast to Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-New York, who spoke to a half-filled room.

Obama’s blackness has come up plenty of times before. He’s often asked whether he’s “black enough” by the African American community and his stock response – the one he deftly delivered during the CNN-YouTube Democratic Presidential debate – has been to joke that folks never ask that question when he’s trying to catch a cab in New York.

But that was hardly his answer Friday afternoon.

Instead – for the first time in more detail that I’ve ever seen – Obama took the opportunity to get at what he considers the heart of the matter, actually demanding that black journalists themselves are to blame for missing the point. Skin color, his record in public service, the issues – none of this suggests he’s not ‘black enough’ and yet questions over his blackness persist, he put to the crowd of black journalists.

It’s “puzzling,” he said. Why is this?

But the question was rhetorical. Professor Obama then stepped onto the stage, answering his own question, and suggesting that perhaps the real issue is a basic mistrust in black America of a black candidate.

“What it really does is really lay bare, I think, that we’re still locked in this notion that if you appeal to white folks then there must be something wrong,” he said, adding it’s the same sort of suspicion many blacks face when they attend a predominately white Ivy League institution.

And that’s when he issued this provocative challenge: Instead of asking Obama if he’s black enough, black journalists should dig deeper, and ask why there exists this mistrust in black America of a black man like Obama running for office?

Bottom line: Obama nailed it. The question of his blackness has always been a ridiculous one. And maybe now he won't have to answer it again.

What do you think? I’d like to her hear your opinion in the comments section below.

- CNN contributor Roland Martin

Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama
August 11th, 2007
07:35 PM ET
16 years ago

It's getting hot in Iowa

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

Filed under: Iowa • Race to '08
August 11th, 2007
07:33 PM ET
16 years ago

Where's Fred?

Thompson had his supporters in Ames, Iowa on Saturday.

AMES, Iowa (CNN)- He’s not here. He’s not even a formal candidate as of now. But Fred Thompson does have a presence at the straw poll in Ames, Iowa. Unofficial supporters of the former Senator from Tennessee and television and big screen actor have set up a booth here on the campus of Iowa State University.

I spoke with one of the supporters manning the Thompson booth. He is a college student from Texas. He says he has no connection what so ever to Thompson’s testing the waters committee.

He did tell me that business was good and that he and his fellow Thompson supporters manning the booth distrubted 15,000 Thompson bumper stickers today. I can’t verify that number in any way, but I did notice a number of people come up to the Thompson booth to grab a bumper sticker or button.

Thompson’s expected to formally announce his candidacy for President sometime after Labor Day.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: Fred Thompson • Iowa • Race to '08
August 11th, 2007
01:39 PM ET
16 years ago

Politics on the march

AMES, Iowa (CNN)- Down in the bowels of the Hilton Coliseum, on the campus of Iowa State University, a choreographed political dance is taking place.

All of the Republican candidates taking part in Ames straw poll spoke today inside the packed coliseum. Minutes before a candidate took to the podium hundreds of his supporters would march onto the floor of the arena. At the same time hundreds of supporters for the candidate who just finished speaking march out of the arena.

I witnessed the arrival of the Brownback gang as the Tommy Thompson corps were departing. It all worked like clockwork and there was no ill will among the camps.

I took an informal poll among the political reporters in the arena covering this crucial early Republican straw poll and here are the very unofficial results of the candidates’ speeches.

Mitt Romney received the most applause. That makes sense since the former Massachusetts governor spent the most money here in Ames, both to bus in supporters and pay for their entrance fees, and also on infrastructure. Romney’s tents are the most elaborate of any of the candidates. Romney is expected to win this straw poll. The question is by how much Romney wins.

The punchiest and most electric speech, according to our informal poll, goes to Mike Huckabee. The former Governor of Arkansas is a minister, and he’s very comfortable speaking in front of large audiences.

One thing’s for sure. With temperatures outside coming close to the century mark, inside is the place to be here in Ames.

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: Iowa • Race to '08
August 11th, 2007
01:37 PM ET
16 years ago

Huntering for straw votes

AMES, Iowa (CNN) - When Bill Casey walked onto the campus of Iowa State University Saturday morning, he was planning to vote for Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback in the Republican Party straw poll.

But then Casey happened upon one of Brownback's rivals for the GOP presidential nomination, California Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was greeting attendees in the parking lot.

"He seemed very genuine, and we asked him to tell us why we should vote for him instead of the other candidates and he was pretty forthright and to the point," said Casey, who lives in Keokuk, a city about 230 miles Southeast of Ames. "I liked what he had to say, I guess."

Several hours later, Casey had made his way to Hunter's tent behind the Hilton Coliseum where the straw poll was being conducted, to indulge in some ice cream and take a rest in the shade. Casey walked up to Hunter to shake his hand and tell the congressman he voted for him.

Hunter, who is not expected to win the straw poll, said in an interview after meeting Casey for the second time that he plans to continue with his presidential campaign regardless of the results.

"This is just a start for us, because this is the first real week we have done in Iowa," he said. "We look at this as a good start."

Several of the candidates might drop out of the race for the GOP nomination if they do not do well in the straw poll. Hunter, who is retiring at the close 110th Congress, said that is not an option.

"I think for the guys who have spent a lot of money here getting their message out ... they are going to have to judge whether or not they have done as well as they want to do."

He added, "For us, we consider this a start of a marathon. This is just the tip off."

As for his decision to wear a suit and tie in the oppressive Iowa heat, Hunter said he is used to this type of weather.

"In my district ... the California desert, it is probably 115 (degrees) right now," the congressman said. "This is not bad today."

The results of the straw poll will be announced at 8 p.m. ET.

- CNN Political Editor Mark Preston

Filed under: Duncan Hunter • Iowa • Race to '08
August 11th, 2007
01:35 PM ET
16 years ago

Dunk a Democrat in Iowa

AMES, Iowa (CNN) - Symbolically, that is.

You know you're at a Republican sanctioned straw poll when people wearing masks with the likenesses of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Al Gore are thrown into a tub of water.

It's all part of the festivities at GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's tent at Saturday's unofficial Republican test in Ames, Iowa.

"In trying to see what makes for a fun atmosphere, we thought of a dunk tank," said Huckabee's New Hampshire field director Periklis Karoutas.
"Usually with a dunk tank you get a clown, but someone had the idea of putting a democrat up there, so Bill, Hillary, and Al came up."

They called it 'Dunk a Democrat,' and Senator Sam Brownback's tent also included one.

The fun started with adults wearing the masks and taking turns in the tank, but the kids soon couldn't take it anymore and had to try it out themselves.

It is, after all, about 100 degrees here in Ames.

- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Iowa
August 11th, 2007
01:33 PM ET
16 years ago

Politics going to the dogs in Iowa

AMES, Iowa (CNN)- Politics is going to the dogs here at the Ames straw poll. Among the many booths outside the arena where the straw poll is being held is My Political Pets dot Com. Their slogan is “Vote with your Paws.” It’s a new organization set up this year to help raise funds for animal shelters across the country.

The organization says it doesn’t take sides when it comes to partisan politics. They describe themselves as “a pet project that combines two of the things closest to our hearts: our pets and our politics.”

- CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser

Filed under: Iowa • Race to '08
August 11th, 2007
01:32 PM ET
16 years ago

Iowa teens churn out activism in Ames

AMES, Iowa (CNN) - While the Republican candidates are courting the 35,000 or so attendees at the Ames straw poll, there is one GOP organization that is targeting a voting bloc - many of whom might not yet be old enough to cast a vote for president.

The Iowa Teenage Republicans, a statewide organization founded just before the 2004 election, makes it their mission to encourage political participation among teenagers.

"I really want teenagers to get involved and look at the issues," said T.J.
Augustine, chairman of the organization.

Augustine said he's not personally endorsing any Republican presidential candidate just yet, but he has met with them individually and visited their tents at the Iowa Republican Party sanctioned straw poll. He's encouraging other young voters to do the same.

"Be an active citizen because we're the future of this country," he said. "There's someone out there in my generation who's going to be the future president of the United States of America."

And even though the word "Republican" is in the name of the group, Augustine said it's not strictly a partisan group.

"We let Democrats join because they don't have an organization like this, and our main goal is getting teenagers involved in the government," he said.

- CNN Iowa Producer Chris Welch

Filed under: Iowa • Race to '08
August 11th, 2007
01:31 PM ET
16 years ago

Dems move into Iowa spotlight next week

Obama will be one of many candidates in Iowa next week.

(CNN) - Must be the butter cow.

Following attention on Republican candidates this week around the Ames Straw Poll, Democratic presidential candidates will pour into Iowa next week. And like their GOP counterparts, the state fair is a command performance.

Senator Joe Biden starts off the influx with stops all weekend, with stops in 5 cities

Senator Chris Dodd is in Des Moines Monday, beginning a week of appearances across the state.

Former Senator John Edwards Monday launches his "Fighting for One America" bus tour, beginning at his state headquarters and the Iowa State Fair, then traveling across the state all week.

Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign announced she will make appearances in 5 cities Tuesday and Wednesday, including a stop at the state fair.

Governor Bill Richardson Tuesday makes stops on Des Moines, including the state fair, followed by events around the state the rest of the week.

Senator Barack Obama Wednesday starts his "Road to Change" tour across the state, beginning in Cedar Falls and including a stop, where else, at the state fair.

All the Democratic candidates will end up in the same places Saturday and Sunday, attending an AFL-CIO "Workers for a Better America" event in Cedar Rapids Saturday, and a nationally televised debate Sunday morning at Drake University.

Democrats will not have the state to themselves though.

Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani returns to Iowa on August 15 after skipping the GOP straw poll in Ames on Saturday. He will cross paths with Clinton when both visit the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines on Wednesday.

And, another (likely) Republican candidate makes his first appearance in Iowa this week. Former Senator Fred Thompson, who previously made stops in South Carolina and New Hampshire, will be in Des Moines Friday. He may not have competed in the straw poll, but he still can enjoy the fair.

- CNN Political Desk Managing Editor Steve Brusk

Filed under: Iowa • Race to '08
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