In the first
half of 1999,
George W. Bush raised $36 million, he consistently ran far ahead of the
Republican field in polls, he racked up endorsements, and he received
media coverage. So much for the national picture; the question
would it play in Iowa where grassroots organizing is required.
Bush's participation in the Ames straw poll was not a foregone
but his Iowa campaign advised him not to skip the event.
of Bush's Iowa campaign, set the bar high by stating a specific goal of
turning out 5,000 supporters at Ames. (By comparison, in 1996 the
Dole and Gramm campaigns had each gained 2582 votes, and in that
out-of-staters were allowed to vote). Bush's competitors charged he was
attempting to buy the election; one rumor floated in early June had it
that the campaign had offered to buy all the straw poll tickets!
mark the first
time Bush shared the stage with other presidential hopefuls since the
Leadership Conference in Indianapolis in August 1997; his performance
that event was deemed by most observers to be uninspired.
Bush made his
to Iowa on June 12, 1999, while other candidates had been plying the
for years. By the eve of the straw poll Bush had participated in 27 events
in Iowa on 9 days; by comparison some of his competitors had spent 27 days
or more in the state in 1999 alone.
A front porch
picnic in Indianola.
Bush secured a
win, gaining a record number of votes, surpassing the 5,000 vote goal
by his Iowa campaign, and finishing well ahead of the nearest
Steve Forbes. At the same time, Forbes and other competitors were
quick to point out that almost seven in ten of those who voted opted
a candidate other than Bush. Spokesperson Karen Hughes stated, "I
think that's the way of people who did not win the straw poll to try to
explain why they did not win the straw poll."
had slightly exceeded its target spending level of $750,000: "We ended
up spending a little more today to buy extra tickets; we had factored
I think about 5,000 tickets and we ended up buying more than
The final total was about $825,000 including spending on the day of the
announced Bush spokeperson Karen Hughes summed them up in a media
on the floor of the Coliseum:
Bush exceeded all
expectations and shattered the records, winning more than three times
many votes as had ever been won by any winner of the Iowa straw
It was just a great night. We know it's only the beginning but
was a fabulous way to jump start our organization for when it counts
is the caucuses in late January."
for Straw Poll Victory!
much. Thank you. Laura and I thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
want to thank our organization in Iowa, our hundreds of volunteers and
all the Iowans that came out to vote for me today. Today, we shattered
every record for the Ames Straw Poll. We met our expectations and we
this straw poll the Iowa way.
ago, when my
Iowa supporters convinced me to participate in this straw poll, some
said I had nothing to gain and potentially a lot to lose. Well thanks
you, we gained a lot. We have more than accomplished what we set out to
do. We jump-started our grassroots organization for the main event, the
Iowa caucuses. Today was also a great day for the Republican Party of
There is a new energy in the state, there’s a new enthusiasm in this
And this new energy will help Republicans take back the White House in
the year 2000.
"I want to
fellow candidates and their organizations that worked very hard today
today was not
just George W. Bush. It was the Republican Party and our great ideas.
was the democratic process. This is the great festival of democracy
we participated in today. I want you to know that I know this is just
beginning. I have a lot of work to do. But the victory today in Iowa
me on the road to earning the nomination of the Republican Party.
all of you
who took time out of your lives to come here to Ames. I’m most
Thank you very much and God bless you all."