from The Water's Edge

The World Next Week: Biden Abroad, Mubarak on Trial, Ames Straw Poll

August 11, 2011

Blog Post

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Diplomacy and International Institutions

Elections and Voting

Vice President Joe Biden waves before boarding a plane at Ben Gurion International airport near Tel Aviv March 11, 2010. (Ronen Zvulun/courtesy Reuters)
Vice President Joe Biden waves before boarding a plane at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv on March 11, 2010. (Ronen Zvulun/courtesy Reuters)

The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed Vice President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Asia; the resumption of the trial of former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak; this weekend’s Straw Poll in Ames, Iowa; and Germany’s observance of the upcoming fiftieth anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall.


The highlights:

  • Vice President Biden is likely to get a mixed reception on his Asian tour. His Chinese hosts will likely tell him that Washington needs to get the U.S. national debt problem under control. Beijing is beating the drum on this subject not just because it is America’s biggest foreign bond-holder but also because it is a smart play for Chinese domestic politics. One thing Beijing doesn’t want to see is another recession in the United States. That would crimp the demand for Chinese exports, thereby hurting China’s economy.
  • Egyptians are riveted by the trial of the man they once referred to as the “Pharoah.” Pictures of Hosni Mubarak lying on a hospital bed inside a cage in a courtroom is hardly encouraging to the region’s many autocrats.
  • All eyes turn to Iowa this weekend for the Ames Straw poll, which has been happening every four years since 1979. It is widely viewed as the first major event of the nominating season even though its predictive value isn’t terribly high. Mitt Romney won the Ames Straw poll the last time around but then lost the Iowa caucuses to Mike Huckabee. The Ames Straw Poll also isn’t a poll in the normal sense of the word. Voters have to get themselves to Ames, prove their Iowa residency, and pay $30 in order to vote. Some campaigns pay the fee for voters to get them to vote for their candidate. The Romney, Huntsman, and Gingrich campaigns, however, won’t be doing that. Although all three candidates have their names on the ballot, none of them is taking the traditional step of renting space outside the arena to tout their candidacies. The Ames Straw poll comes with a twist this year—space for write-in candidates. So check the news stories on Sunday—or Twitter on Saturday night if you are on the cutting edge of technology—to see how many write-in ballots Rick Perry and Sarah Palin pull in.
  • Germans mark the fiftieth anniversary of the construction of the Berlin Wall, one of the tragic events of the twentieth century. Visiting Berlin today it can be hard to imagine that it was once a city whose citizens risked death to escape from East to West.

CFR’s Elizabeth Economy and Evan Feigenbaum weigh in on what Biden can expect to find during his Asian tour. The BBC has the African perspective on the Mubarak trial, while Bloomberg looks into what the trial says to Middle Eastern monarchs. George Will at the Washington Post weighs in on the Ames Straw Poll and the Wall Street Journal’s “Washington Wire” has the scoop on former Governor and Straw Poll winner Mike Huckabee’s encore visit to Ames. To learn more about Germany’s observance of the 50th anniversary of the construction of its famous wall, check out the site the city has created in honor of the event and the New York Times’s preview of Berlin’s remembrance.