COUNCIL BLUFFS, IA –- During his two-week tour of Iowa, Republican presidential hopeful Tim Pawlenty made it a point to stick around and talk to voters after his speeches and town halls.
While the former Minnesota governor stayed to ask voters about the issues that are most important to them, a handful of Pawlenty campaign interns stuck around to ask Iowa voters a different question: Are you going to the Ames straw poll on Aug. 13?
And: Do you need a free ticket or a ride?
Over the past two weeks, Pawlenty has covered about 1,700 miles of Iowa, with his campaign staff estimating to have reached 1,600 voters. In each stop, he has urged voters to support him in Ames, which has traditionally been the summer indicator of which candidates will do well in the Iowa caucuses.
But despite the ground effort that is being put into getting people to next month’s straw poll, his campaign isn't specific about what results they want to see next month.
The goal for Ames is to “show big movement,” Pawlenty campaign manager Nick Ayers told NBC News after a meet and greet here this morning.
“Moving one place is not real movement,” Ayers added. “Moving three to four places is real movement.”
National polls show Pawlenty hovering towards the bottom of the pack of Republicans seeking the presidential nomination. The latest Gallup poll shows him garnering just 2% support from Republicans.
On the stump, Pawlenty has been touting his executive record and national electability against that of his GOP competitors –- including some not-so-subtle jabs at Minnesota rival Michele Bachmann.
In Carroll yesterday, Pawlenty told voters, “I think an important question for you as you consider who to vote for in the Ames straw poll and the caucuses or beyond is: Has this person actually done any of it? Because after Barack Obama, I’m sick and tired of listening to people flap their jaw.”
Regardless of what the polls show (Gallup has Bachmann with 11% support from Republicans), the Pawlenty campaign argues the miles they covered in Iowa will pay off –- both at Ames and beyond.
“Our ultimate goal here in Iowa is to win the caucus,” Ayers said.