I'm in an airport waiting for my (much, much delayed) flight to Iowa checking the latest on the Ames Straw Poll. While I'd been told by the Ron Paul campaign that there wouldn't be a big ticket buy, the Paul team sprung for 800 tickets (you need one in order to vote) that are quickly being snapped up by supporters. The cost: $28,000. That's enough to guarantee another romp over McCain, obviously, but Paul will need more than a thousand voters to buy their own tickets in order to compete with the make-or-break efforts of Sam Brownback, Mike Huckabee and Tom Tancredo and last-scene-of-Peter-Weir's-Gallipoli charge of Tommy Thompson.
Paul supporters aren't exactly broadcasting confidence. Voterfraud.org is suing to get the votes counted on something other than (or in addition to) Diebold machines.
Some sum-ups from people already in (or taking less languid methods of transportation to) Iowa: Marc Ambinder.
There are other interesting subplots, in no particular order.
1. Tom Tancredo—where he finishes, what he says.
3. The war of attrition between Sen. Sam Brownback and Ex-Gov. Mike Huckabee. Kansan and Arkansan. Catholic and Protestant. Comprehensive immigrationalist and comprehensive immigrationalist. In many ways, they're really quite similar. Based on anecdotes alone, the betting money is that Brownback has a better campaign organization and can expect, thanks to reliable stalwarts like pro-life activist Chuck Hurley, a solid turnout. But Huckabee has been working heavily Christian towns hard, and several Brownback rivals are spreading some tough (and arguably misleading) opposition research about him.
9. Whether Mitt Romney pulls campaign manager Beth Myers aside and asks whether they _really_ had to spend _all_ this money? (To which Myers will reply: "Yes, Governor.") Ron Kaufman will then join the conversation and start by saying, "Look it, Governor…"
Rep. Ron Paul: Mr. Paul's online supporters have made Web-based polls of the Republican primary essentially meaningless, swarming sites like the Pajamas Media straw poll and giving their man a 2-to-1 margin of victory over his closest competitor. No scientific poll, however, has shown Mr. Paul registering better than 1% or 2%, and it's unlikely they can adapt their cyber-tactics to the real world. Paulites are already calling voter fraud, but any low showing is likely to be legitimate.
Sager predicts a seventh-place Paul showing, behind Tancredo and ahead of McCain.
And here's an ad running in the Ames Tribune tomorrow.