Iowa ‘Straw Poll’ a Test for US Republican Presidential Candidates

Posted August 13th, 2011 at 1:30 pm (UTC-5)
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Republican presidential contenders in the U.S. seeking to challenge President Barack Obama in the 2012 election face a highly anticipated test vote Saturday in Iowa.

The Iowa Republican party calls it a “straw poll,” a mock election with no official standing. But the balloting in the city of Ames is seen as a key test measuring party sentiment for nine candidates seeking to unseat Mr. Obama after one four-year term and take over the White House in early 2013. Republicans will officially pick their nominee in a series of votes over several months in the first half of 2012.

Among the candidates on the Iowa ballot is former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who national political surveys have shown is the leading choice of Republican voters to be their party's nominee to face Mr. Obama. But some surveys in Iowa have shown that state voters there might favor Michele Bachmann, a member of the House of Representatives and favorite of conservative Tea Party activists seeking lower taxes and a reduction in the size and power of the national government.

Among others on the ballot are former House Speaker Newt Gingrich; two other former governors, Tim Pawlenty of the neighboring state of Minnesota and Jon Huntsman of the western state of Utah, and a Texas congressman, libertarian Ron Paul.

The six-hour voting in Iowa may be overshadowed by the entry of another candidate in the field attempting to oust Mr. Obama — Texas Governor Rick Perry, currently the nation's longest-serving governor. He is not on the test ballot in Iowa, but announced his candidacy Saturday at a gathering of conservative activists in the southern state of South Carolina.

Perry is considered one of the more formidable Republican challengers, with a strong record of job growth, and a record that could potentially appeal to both social and economic conservatives. Recent national surveys have shown Republican voters favor Romney for the nomination, with Perry next in line.

Another potential candidate, former Alaska governor and 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, has not indicated whether she will run, so she is also not on the Iowa ballot on Saturday. But she visited the state's annual fair ahead of the straw poll to greet voters and said she would soon decide whether to seek the party's presidential nomination.