Cain Campaign Warns IA GOP Against Opening Big Straw Poll Ballot To Romney, Perry

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In a few weeks, the first major contest of the 2012 Iowa caucus kicks off in Ames. The famous Ames Straw Poll is a mixture of Republican politicking, theater and raw, unadulterated capitalism.

Herman Cain doesn’t want the state GOP to ruin the fun. “By putting people on the ballot who didn’t pay, [the state party] has the potential to weaken Iowa’s status as the first in the nation caucus,” Cain spokesperson Ellen Carmichael told TPM.Here’s what all the fuss is about: Cain, along with many other candidates, have paid big money for a prime slot at the Ames Straw Poll and are planning to pony up a lot more to pay their supporters to vote during the Republican party event. Tickets are $30 each and campaigns typically buy thousands to assure a good turnout at the event. That’s after they drop $10,000 or more for space at the event.

It’s all part of the fun at Ames — but it’s also leading to some resentment at Team Cain. News recently broke that the Iowa GOP may expand the Ames ballot to include candidates who didn’t pay for the privileged to participate. Mitt Romney decided not to pay for a slot at the straw poll (part of his larger strategy to essentially skip Iowa in favor of making his move in New Hampshire) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who basically everyone expects to run at this point, is not yet a declared candidate so he didn’t buy space either. But that doesn’t mean both men won’t appear on the straw poll ballot along with all the candidates who did pay up.

The Daily Beast‘s Jill Lawrence reports on the drama:

State party officials put John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson on the straw poll ballot in 2007 even though they hadn’t officially entered it. Casey Mills, a spokesman for the Iowa GOP, says he expects the party “will lean toward inclusion” of everyone again this year. A decision is due July 23.

Cain’s campaign paid $17,000 for his Ames slot. Carmichael says that expanding the field now would be unfair to those who paid up like he did.

“We’re not attacking anybody, we’re asking that our participation in the straw poll though purchasing a booth through purchasing tickets is not subsidizing people who didn’t,” she told TPM.

Asked if Cain would consider pulling out of Ames if Romney was let on the ballot, Carmichael said, “we haven’t had any discussions about that.”