In a surprisingly strong showing, Texas Sen. Phil Gramm tied Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas in Iowa’s Republican presidential straw poll Saturday night, holding his own against the GOP front-runner in his Midwestern back yard.
Dole and Gramm each got 2,582 votes, according to results the Iowa Republican Party said are considered tentative because of the closeness. Commentator Pat Buchanan was a distant third with 1,922 votes, while former Tennessee Gov. Lamar Alexander came in fourth with 1,156 votes.
The results capped a carnivallike day at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames as campaigns brought in busloads of supporters from out of state.
The influence of outsiders led several of the candidates to characterize the event as meaningless.
But just a few days ago, Dole had predicted a victory here, and his aides clearly were despondent as the results were tabulated. Gramm, on the other hand, was exultant, returning to the convention hall to claim the tie as a big victory.
“The people of Iowa want to put the federal government on a budget like everybody else, and that is why they voted for me tonight,” Gramm said. “If we can beat Bob Dole in Iowa, we can beat him anywhere in America.”
Dole advisers insisted that would never happen when the votes count.
Scott Reed, Dole’s campaign manager, disputed the notion that the vote was a rejection of Dole’s message or that the combined Gramm-Buchanan vote showed deep dissatisfaction with the front-runner among the party’s conservative activists.
“All it tells me is they did a good job of getting a lot of people to come to Ames today,” Reed said. “This is not going to affect the results of the caucuses in February.”
A $25 ticket guaranteed anyone a chance to vote - regardless of whether they were from Iowa or eligible to vote in its kickoff caucuses six months from now. The event raised $300,000 for the Iowa Republican Party - and the ire of several candidates who said the loose rules meant the day’s trophy would go to the highest bidder.
“I do not think the Iowa straw poll should be for sale,” complained Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, who was booed lustily throughout his evening speech and finished dead last with only 67 votes of the 10,598 cast.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: POLL RESULTS AMES, Iowa - Results of Saturday’s GOP presidential straw poll at Hilton Coliseum on the Iowa State University campus (includes votes per candidate and percentage of total). A total of 10,598 votes were cast, according to the Iowa Republican Party. 1. (tie) Bob Dole and Phil Gramm, 2,582 votes, 24.36 percent. 3. Pat Buchanan, 1,922, 18.14 percent. 4. Lamar Alexander, 1,156, 10.91 percent. 5. Alan Keyes, 804, 7.59 percent. 6. Maurice Taylor, 803, 7.58 percent. 7. Richard Lugar, 466, 4.4 percent. 8. Pete Wilson, 129, 1.22 percent. 9. Bob Dornan, 87, 0.82 percent. 10. Arlen Specter, 67, 0.63 percent.