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Sarah Huckabee Sanders: Pawlenty, better chance to win Ames than father in '07

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, senior political adviser to Tim Pawlenty’s presidential campaign, told NBC News yesterday that she believes the former Minnesota governor is in a better position to do well in the Ames straw poll than her father, Mike Huckabee, was at this point in 2007. 

“He [Huckabee] had a much smaller organization,” she said. “It was a lot -- at this point -- less known. I would say that Gov. Pawlenty is probably somewhat ahead of where my dad was at this point in the straw poll.”

Huckabee, the affable former Arkansas governor who was also a Baptist pastor, finished second in Ames in 2007, but went on to win the caucuses. He had strong support from the religious voters, who campaigned hard for him.

For some perspective, Pawlenty is at 6% in the latest Des Moines Register poll out June 26, putting him in sixth place -- and gets only 2% from Republicans in the latest Gallup poll.

In the July 2007 NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll, Huckabee received just 1% of support from Republican voters, and in May 2007, he was at 4% in Des Moines Register poll.

On Ames expectations
SANDERS: “In the straw poll, I think he just needs to show progress from where he’s been and show that there’s some forward movement. I think he’ll do that. As far as the caucus goes, it’s a long way from now, but I think he needs to do extremely well in the caucus. You know, it’s one of those things that, it may change between now and then, depending on the environment. … We were polling six or seven [in the] last Des Moines Register poll, which is probably one of the bigger, more credible polls in the state -- so ahead of that. Anything better than 6 is progress.”

On a possible run by Texas Gov. Rick Perry
SANDERS: “I certainly think that he could have an impact, but so much of that, you know, he hasn’t been through this process. We haven’t seen him really be vetted; we haven’t seen him go through the day-to-day of presidential campaign rigors. So I think a lot of that’s yet to be determined, so we’re staying focused on our campaign. There have been a lot of people who said they were going to get in but didn’t, and so I think the most important thing for us is to stay focused on our campaign and our message. And that’s not going to change based on who gets in the race.”

Working for Pawlenty vs. working for her dad
SANDERS: “The environment is very different now than it was four years ago. You’ve got a much more aggressive electorate than you did four years ago. But at the same time there are a lot of similarities in the sense that Iowans take their role extremely serious; they’re very responsible voters. They ask hard questions and actually show up and ask questions. They don’t just come because they’re supporting, they come because they want to know who you are. They want to look you in the eye, and they want to be able to ask you something that’s important to them, and then see how you respond to it. I think Iowa is a great starting place for the presidential election for that reason alone. You know, most people expect not to just know who each candidate is, but they want to meet them, look them in the eye like once or twice and maybe even have you in their home at some point. You know, so it’s a very retail politics oriented, but I think it’s a good judge of, you know, how a person really is and the authenticity of them. And I think a person like Gov. Pawlenty will do extremely well here.” 

On Pawlenty Iowa strategy
SANDERS: “We’ll continue [the] bus tour right up until the straw poll. Our main thing is just getting the governor’s message out and letting him get in front of as many Iowans as possible because the more people that meet him, the more people the love him. And the more people coalesce around him are starting to get energized by what he’s saying and what he’s doing and what he’s done in the past. And so our goal is, he’s going to be the best salesman of himself that anyone could be, so we want to get him in front of as man Iowans as possible, so that we do well in the straw poll, which I think we will.”

On rest of GOP field
Sanders said she believes there are Republican candidates in the race without a record of accomplishment, but declined to give specifics.