Later this week, Tina Korbe and I will travel to Ames, Iowa, to cover both the nationally-televised presidential debate on Thursday and the straw poll two days later.  Our Townhall colleague Guy Benson will join us as well.  That will bring its share of drama and intrigue, but the Iowa GOP may have a surprise up their sleeve before then, too.  A few minutes ago, I received this brief e-mail from the state chair’s office:

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn will hold a media availability following the meeting of the Ames Rotary at 1pm [CT] today to announce an special guest attending the Iowa GOP/Fox News Debate on Thursday, August  11. Chairman Strawn will also give an overview of the week’s events including Thursday’s debate and Saturday’s Straw Poll. Interested parties should email [email protected]

A ‘special guest’?  That sounds rather interesting, given who has already declared themselves in the race — and who hasn’t.  The two surprises with the most media impact would be Rick Perry, who’s reportedly very close to announcing his entry in the race, or Sarah Palin, who has a tremendous draw in Iowa. An appearance as a “special guest” by either would stoke their attraction for write-in votes on Saturday, as well as draw huge media attention to the event.  It would also allow either potential candidate to make a big splash without actually having to participate in the event — and overshadow the rest of the attending field.

A third possibility would be Thad McCotter, who has publicly complained about being left off the dais at the debate.  That would not be a great media event, but it might be the Iowa GOP’s way out of a sticky situation in their decision to keep McCotter out of the debate.

We have a couple of hours before the announcement, so let’s poll on the question.  Who do you think will be the special guest?  I’ll update this post as soon as I hear any specifics, but I’m predicting it will be Perry.



Update: Perry’s timeline has sped up, according to Politico (via William Amos):

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is expected to announce his presidential plans shortly after the Ames Straw Poll this coming weekend, and his supporters are already soliciting contributions for the campaign, according to an e-mail from a Perry supporter.

The e-mail from Gene Powell, a real estate executive whom Perry appointed to the University of Texas board of regents, states, “We expect that announcement in a week to ten days” and tells people to start writing checks today.

It is further evidence that Perry is truly ramping up for a presidential campaign, even though a top Perry adviser says the e-mail’s timeframe isn’t hard and fast.

Update II: It’s almost no one you’ve ever heard of — RNC chair Reince Priebus.