Answer: When it is the Ames Straw Poll

Anyone following politics watches the poll numbers. Major news sources conduct their own polls and make headline news simply by reporting the results of their polls. For many of us we consider the source of the information, and the methodology used to conduct the poll. The reason we are intrigued about the results of a poll is that IF the poll is valid, it would be an indication of the popularity of a politician. A poll is simply a number of votes cast or recorded. Obviously, a poll is only a reflection of the actual popularity of a candidate if the poll is honest and fair. Typically we think of people voting in polls of their own free will and with no hidden agenda. We don’t think of people voting in polls due to coercion or to accomplish a personal goal. Therein lies the problem with the Ames Straw Poll.

The Ames Straw poll in Iowa is a presidential poll taken by Iowa Republicans. It is held in the early fall before the presidential cycles, and is supposed to be a “first indicator” of the strength of a candidate’s “organization and message.” The first problem with the Ames Straw “Poll” is that people have to PAY to vote. This year a fee of $30.00 was paid by each and every person voting. Additionally candidates are not prohibited from paying people to vote. Because the money raised goes to support the Republican Party in Iowa, there is an argument to be made that it actually helps the party by causing people to give money to the party, regardless of the reason. After all, candidates who are unable to raise money, or get media attention will likely not prevail in the general election.

In 2007 about 450 reporters covered the Ames Straw Poll. . This year the number of reporters covering the event almost doubled, being 800. Thus the headlines from this poll would appear in media sources across the nation. The headlines from this year’s poll announced that Michele Bachmann “won” the poll. Mission Accomplished. Bachmann “won” the poll, and garnered a significant amount of media attention. Americans like to be associated with a “winner” and now Bachmann is identified as a “winner”. Who needs to read beyond the headlines? Who cares how she won?

The truth is that Bachmann won by buying most of the votes cast for her. Michele Bachmann spent close to $1,000,000 to pay for over 6,000 tickets for people to see Randy Travis, a popular country and western singer. She even paid to bus 152 Travis fans to the fair to see one of their favorite singers. The only price of admission was to “vote” for Michele Bachmann.

Thus the Ames Staw “Poll” was more of an indicator of the popularity of Randy Travis than any politician. It is also an indication of the willingness of Michele Bachmann to do any and everything to get elected. If she gets the Republican nomination, maybe she’ll adopt a Down’s syndrome baby from a lesbian couple to gain attention for her anti-abortion, anti-homosexual platforms.

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