The Iowa GOP has set the ballot for one of the first milestones of the 2012 Republican nomination battle, the Ames Straw Poll, which will be held on August 13th at Iowa State University.

The poll will include the six candidates who bought space at the event, as well as three candidates who are not participating in the straw poll, but are declared candidates for the nomination.

Two big names that will not appear on the sheet are Rick Perry and Sarah Palin. P ‘n P were voted off the ballot because, while both are flirting with the idea of running, neither made any moves to show the Iowa GOP that they’d want to be included. Several candidates that were deemed “lesser” were also excluded, such as Gary Johnson and Buddy Roemer.

The nine on the ballot are: Mitt Romney, who won the straw poll in 2007, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Rick Santorum, and Thaddeus McCotter. The last six names were placed on the ballot automatically when they purchased tent space to rally their troops for the poll.

The purchasing of space for the event is one of the unique aspects of Ames, where Ron Paul shelled out $31,000 to secure the most sought after spot, as well as the right to chose when he will speak during the dinner.

This leads me to wonder what the candidates will do with these spaces.

Ron Paul could set up an internet cafe so his supporters could blog to each other while sitting next to each other and then have a good ole’ online poll spam-a-thon.

Herman Cain can give away free pizza, while Tim Pawlenty can have cots ready for the folks who come to listen to his stump speeches.

Michele Bachman’s people can shoot spitballs at Pawlenty’s in a Minnesota civil war, as Thaddeus McCotter tries to convince Rick Santorum’s only supporter that he really, truly is running for President.

Ah! Only in America!