The “voting” will continue until 9 p.m., but the early results of the Ames straw poll are already in. Today, nine Republican candidates threw huge parties in tents pitched around the Iowa State University basketball stadium. They competed on food, music, and celebrity guests. Here are the rankings in order.
1. George W. Bush
Overall atmosphere: Texas barn dance–minus the beer.Food: 2 1/2 stars. Dave’s World Famous BBQ sandwiches good though a bit salty. Best coleslaw.Music: 4 stars. Linda Davis, a sultry country singer and the grunge-country band The Nadas rocked out.Celebrities: 3 stars. Roger Staubach, Sean Elliott of the San Antonio Spurs and assorted other jocks.Bonus: 2 stars. A motorcycle club led by Ben Nighthorse Campbell crashes the chow line.
2. Pat Buchanan
Overall atmosphere: Oktoberfest, Munich 1934.Food: 4 stars. Maurice’s BBQ by far the best of the day. Also husk-roasted sweet corn dipped in butter.Entertainment: 2 stars. The Heartbeats, a decent R&B cover band in cowboy hats.Celebrities: 1/2 star. Just Pat autographing anything presented to him.Bonus: 2 stars. Teamsters arrive in tractor-trailers, honking feroiciously.
3. Lamar Alexander
Overall atmosphere: Grand Ol’ Opry.Food: 2 stars. Pulled pork on a roll is overcooked and a little dry. Baby back ribs are better.Music: 3 Stars. Country singer Crystal Gayle proves a major draw.Celebrities: Johnny Majors, the football coach.Bonus: 2 stars. Miss Iowa autographs pictures for awestruck teen-age boys.
4. Orrin Hatch
Overall tone: Mormon school picnic.Food: 3 stars. Tasty fried chicken in addition to ordinary BBQ ribs. Berry cobbler for dessert.Music: 3 stars. The legendary Vic Damone.Celebrities: 2 stars. Utah Jazz power forward Karl Malone.
5. Steve Forbes
Overall tone: Richie Rich’s 12th birthday.Food: 2 stars. More pulled pork sandwiches.Music: 1 star. Debby Boone singing “You Light Up My Life.”Celebrities: Zero. Armstrong Williams, Paul Weyrich, and Rep. Bob Barr. You call these celebrities?Bonus: 4 stars. Moonwalk, air slide, clowns on stilts, and face painting. Plus an air-conditioned tent.
6. Elizabeth Dole
Overall tone: Take Our Daughters to Work Day.Food: 2 1/2 stars. Better than it looked sliced pork BBQ. Ketchuplike sauce. Root beer floats.Music: 1 star. Prairie Cats, a lame swing band.Celebrities: 1/2 star. Bob Dole.
Bonus: 1/2 star. A Model-T Ford painted Liddy Yellow.
7. Dan Quayle
Overall tone: Fraternal Order of Elks picnic.Food: 1 1/2 stars. Sliced pork BBQ with too-sweet potato salad. Chocolate milk to drink–yuck.Music: 1 star. Truly awful Andews-Sisters type imitators.Celebrities: Nope.
8. Gary Bauer
Overall tone:The 700 Club.Food: N/A. I couldn’t look at another pulled pork sandwich.Music: 1/2 star. The Christian rock band 4 Him. “The Him is Jesus,” a Bauer supporter helpfully explained.Celebrities: None spotted.
9. Alan Keyes
Overall tone: Tent revival meeting.Food: 1/2 star. Vanilla ice cream and Hershey’s chocolate syrup.Music: 1/2 star. An out-of-tune brass band.Celebrities: Ambassador Alan Keyes.