Republican Party of Iowa's Official Presidential Straw Poll
Ames, IA   August 14, 1999
Copyright 1999 Eric M. Appleman/Democracy in Action.  All rights reserved.
"My 30-year record of service to the public is one that's filled with tearing down barriers, speaking my mind, and fighting the tough battles to make a difference, a positive difference."


The Tent Scene

The Dole forces mobilized in distinctive yellow tee-shirts.  Large banners, hand painted by volunteers at the campaign headquarters in Des Moines, provided a grassroots touch not seen in some of the other tents. 

The campaign eschewed the big entertainment approach used by many of the other campaigns.  Iowa Republican national committeeman Steve Roberts served as master of ceremonies.  There was a swing band The Prairie Cats, and dancers.  Although not in the plans, the campaign picked up one of the more attention-getting activities--Tom Steinbeck had brought his 1921 Ford with a shortened wheel base up from Pilot Point, Texas and he gave thrillseekers stunt rides in the parking lot.  Hy-Vee provided food for 3,000 people including barbecued pork, baked beans, root beer floats, cookies and lemonade.

Since resigning from her position as president of the American Red Cross on Jan. 4, 1999 and announcing the formation of an exploratory committee in Des Moines on March 10, Elizabeth Dole's star had appeared to wane considerably.  Her campaign insisted she was bringing new people into the process. The straw poll would show whether there was anything to that claim and whether her bid to "make history" was making headway. 
(August 11, 1999) Elizabeth Dole did many events in the Des Moines area in the days preceeding the straw poll,  Here she arrives to speak to employees at Anderson-Erickson dairy.  The Washington Post's David Broder heads to the event, as does communications director Ari Fleischer. (August 13, 1999) Dole also stopped in at campaign headquarters to make some calls.

Outcome: Third--3,410 Votes (14.4%)
Dole did surprisingly well, finishing third.  Her campaign was quick to speak of an "Iowa straw poll win" based on the fact that Bush and Forbes had far outspent her. 

Dole pollster Linda DiVall explained the results thusly:
We're very excited about Mrs. Dole's third place finish.  For one thing it shows that she's got on-ground support and outperformed Lamar Alexander and Pat Buchanan, who have been proven vote performers in the state.  The turnout was phenomenal--it's about one quarter of what the turnout was in '96 for the caucuses--and the fact that was able to get out the vote that she did.  She didn't have the entertainment; she didn't have the water slides and the mountains that Forbes did.  We were outspent 10 to 1 by Forbes and Bush each.  And so it shows that her message and her persona are what people are attracted to and it gives us a terrific basis to build upon over the next five months building into the caucuses.

The official statement:

August 14, 1999

Statement by Elizabeth Dole on Results of Iowa Straw Poll

“What a great victory tonight. Despite being outspent by more than $2 million, we finished close to second place. Together we proved that people, ideas, and principles do matter. No matter how much money my opponents spent, our showing proves that when you look people in the eye and say what you mean and mean what you say, they respond. 

“I’m please and humbled by tonight’s vote. My message of getting the IRS out our pockets, restoring order and discipline to our classrooms, keeping drugs away from our children, and beefing up our national defenses struck a chord with Iowans. 

“We reached traditional Republicans and we brought a huge number of new people into the process. About 50 percent of the people who voted for me are new to the process, and it appears that two-thirds of our voters are women. That’s good for me, good for the party, and good for the country. 

“This is going to become a two-person race and I’m leaving tomorrow for New Hampshire to keep spreading my message.”