KXAN On the Road: Iowa Straw Poll & Perry’s Waterloo WelcomeAugust 13th, 2011 at 12:50 pm by Josh Hinkle under Politics
Sunday 9:30 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa
Robert and I have finally finished up our reports for the late newscasts and are now desperately trying to make our way to a restaurant still serving food this late. We settle on a Waterloo location, though we eventually have to drive an hour south to Cedar Rapids for tonight’s hotel.
Robert somehow finds a random place with an open kitchen. In a perfect end to the night, we eat fried mushrooms and listen to hilarious locals belt out mid-90s karaoke. Iowa has been fun, but our plane ride back to Austin comes early tomorrow.
Sunday 5:30 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa
After candidate Rick Santorum, Perry takes the stage with a speech bashing the Obama administration and boasting over his own job creation record. Bachmann takes the stage after Perry, telling the media to back away from the crowd. In addition to taking a similar anti-Washington approach, she hands out an apple pie to the oldest Republican mother in the crowd. She was 100, by the way.
Perry scoots out the door quickly, as he has two more days in Iowa ahead of him on this trip. Bachmann stays behind to sign autographs.
Sunday 4:30 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa
The venue is packed, apparently sold out. Perry, his wife Anita, and their children have arrived and entered the building. His status as presidential candidate apparently comes with papparazi. I’ve never seen anything like it. I hand Robert the mic and grab the camera. We squeeze through the immense crowd surrounding the governor.
Perry works his way around the maze of tables with no specific direction in mind. It makes following him very difficult. But our persistence works. Perry recognizes Robert among the dozens of media. Robert asks him about his trip to Iowa and he describes is as nice, almost like being back in Texas.
As we continue to track the governor, we’re able to grab Texas’ first lady’s attention to talk about the hours since Perry’s announcement on Saturday. She says it’s been busy but something she and the “children” have enjoyed.
Sunday 2:00 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa
The Black Hawk County Republican Party just told us that the Lincoln Dinner tonight would be its biggest fundraiser of the year. Most of the money will go toward its February caucus, one of the largest in the state with an estimated 6,000 voters. That’s very important for the GOP candidates coming tonight, trying to appeal to the state that casts its ballot first in the nation.
Perry, Bachmann, and Rick Santorum were all on the lineup. As we prepared for their arrival, Robert and I shot a story for our early newscast and worked through the technological isolation that was the reality of our remote location. This is going to be a very long, full night. I can already tell.
Sunday 1:00 p.m. – Waterloo, Iowa
The morning talk shows were all abuzz over Perry when I woke up. Robert and I headed out to eat a real Iowa steak, knowing it might be our only meal for a while today. Now, we are at Waterloo’s Electric Park Ballroom, where Perry will speak this evening.
Driving up to the Electric Park Ballroom was a bit of a surprise. It didn’t exactly look presidential, but then we found out how rooted in the community it really was. It’s probably the perfect place to talk to locals, if you’re running for president.
Sunday 1:00 a.m. – Waterloo, Iowa
I’m finally in my hotel room and just watched Perry’s announcement for the first time on CNN. His trip to Waterloo later today will involve a speech before the Black Hawk County Republican Party. He is among a host of GOP leaders who have been invited to speak. Along with his acceptance, another presidential candidate will speak. Fresh from her straw poll win, Michele Bachmann will take the stage right after Perry. This city is her birthplace and where she announced her own candidacy earlier this year. How will Perry’s run effect her popularity here?
Saturday 10:00 p.m. – Ames, Iowa
Farewell to Ames. It was fun, but now it’s on to the eastern side of the state. Robert is driving, so I can wrap up things on the laptop during the trip to Waterloo. I’m curious to see what kind of crowd Perry draws tomorrow in his new capacity as presidential candidate. Americans for Rick Perry organizers called my cell tonight and said they wouldn’t be at the event. Sounds like they’re letting the campaign staff “take over.”
Saturday 6:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa
Robert and I are sitting in a booth in an Old Chicago. It’s the first free moment we’ve had to eat all day. He’s having a pizza. I’m having a burger, eating with one hand and editing on my laptop with the other. We have two separate stories – one about the straw poll, the other about Perry’s support there. No time to blog!
Saturday 5:45 p.m. – Ames, Iowa
The results are in. Bachmann leads the pack, but in close second is Texas Congressman Ron Paul. And that’s the name you hear people inside and outside of the Coliseum chanting. I think there are some big upsets with Pawlenty, Santorum, and Cain. We’ll see what they do in the coming days, as some candidates who finished lower than they liked in the past have dropped out soon after.
Here’s something interesting. The write-in thing kind of worked for Perry. He got 712 votes, about 4 percent of the total count. That’s more than Romney!
Saturday 4:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa
It’s crunch time for us. I’m shooting and editing everything today. Robert is busy writing while I’m loading the video from the day into the laptop. As soon as that’s finished, I’ll shoot our standups (the part where you see us on camera) and eventually send everything back to the station in Austin through FTP. Let’s cross our fingers it won’t take too long to upload!
Saturday 4:00 p.m. – Ames, Iowa
I was pleasantly surprised to just run into Bruce Aune, the main anchor at my former station in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He was inside the Coliseum covering the event – like I did last time – for KCRG. So great to see him. There wasn’t much time to talk though, because Herman Cain took the mic shortly after. He was the last of the candidates to speak today.
The room wasn’t empty, but it certainly wasn’t packed either. The day was definitely winding down, as the period to vote was closing quickly. There is anticipation in the air, as people are guessing who will win. I keep hearing some talk about the write-in option this year – a first for the Iowa Straw Poll since its inception in 1979. I know those people wearing the Perry shirts told me of their plans to write in his name. Will it even matter since most people here already seem to have their minds made up?
Is it a good indication of the rest of the campaign season? Is it too late for Perry to enter? Or is the straw poll just not as important as people once thought it was. After all, Mitt Romney won it back in 2007, but he didn’t win the Iowa Caucus or the GOP nomination. In fact, he’s not making a showing this year, even though he’s the clear national frontrunner.
Saturday 3:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa
This really is like the Iowa State Fair. There’s a Bachmann blimp overhead, a “test your strength” game, Randy Travis, balloon animals, and a man dressed up like a Tea Party Patriot (old-timey accent and all). We just ran into one of the organizers for tomorrow’s event in Waterloo where Perry will make his first Iowa stop as a presidential contender, and he said he’s already issued more than 70 media credentials. That’s a lot, especially considering Perry’s a late addition to the line-up.
Saturday 2:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa
We have just spent the past hour scouring the crowd for people wearing maroon T-shirts with the words “Americans for Rick Perry” across the front. It’s that PAC I mentioned earlier. Apparently, they don’t have a tent here, but they hit up what supporters they could at the local Holiday Inn this morning, I’m told.
The few people we can find with the shirts are proud to wear them and have no problem telling others in the crowd why they’re bucking the Bachmann, Cain, or Pawlenty trends. Those are the three that have the biggest presence here, so far, it seems.
Saturday 1:30 p.m. – Ames, Iowa
As we hit the Ames exit, campaign signs were already dotting the shoulders. They led straight to Iowa State University, where more than 16,000 people would vote for their favorite Republican over the course of the day. We were lucky to find a parking spot in the lot nearest to the Colosseum where the main event was blaring out the candidates’ speeches live.
Within the lot were dozens upon dozens of tour buses from across the nation. If you could rally your supporters to come all the way to Iowa, you’d probably stand a good chance in a campaign. That’s dedication, and it’s only going to get more intense as the day continued.
Saturday 11:30 a.m. – Des Moines, Iowa
79 degree high. 59 degree low. It was the first thing Robert and I noticed when we stepped off the plane at the Des Moines airport. Actually, we learned those stats on the radio in out rental car a few minutes later, but it was still a welcome change from the triple-digit Texas temps, for sure. The second thing we noticed – the news. People were talking about politics. Every television in the terminal talked about the Iowa Straw Poll and the presidency.
Thousands were in the Capitol City for the Iowa State Fair – butter cow and all. Still at the top of the political talk was Sarah Palin. The yet-to-declare presidential contender made a stop at the fair yesterday and seemed to draw a lot of attention to her. But now political-minded Iowans’ attention is shifting to something happening in another state. Gov. Rick Perry spelled out his plans and reasons for running for president on his newly-launched website just before hitting the stage at a conservative bloggers’ conference where he would further that announcement in South Carolina very shortly.
It was also the talk radio buzz on our jaunt north on I-35 to Ames, where the majority of other GOP presidential candidates are already a few hours into the Iowa Straw Poll. It’s been compared to a state fair itself – Ferris wheels, funnel cake, and plenty of other attractions – up until a winner is announced this evening. It should be an interesting – if not tense – observation of how the candidates in attendance react to Perry’s undoubtedly scene-stealing announcement today.
Saturday 7:00 a.m. – Austin, Texas
Robert Hadlock and I are flying out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on our way to Iowa for a weekend of political fun. The Iowa Straw Poll awaits us in Ames today, and tomorrow it’s on to Waterloo – where Gov. Rick Perry will make his first appearance in the Hawkeye State since becoming a presidential contender.
This will be a nostalgic trip for me, since I lived and worked in Iowa during the last presidential election cycle. Waterloo was part of my television market, and I was in Ames when Mitt Romney won the straw poll in 2007. Of course, he later lost the state’s caucus and eventually the GOP nomination. This year, he’s the frontrunner again, but he’s bypassing the event altogether this time around.
Perry won’t be there either, as he’s yet to officially announce his candidacy (though that’s expected today in South Carolina). But I hear a PAC called Americans for Rick Perry has a presence at the straw poll.