DES MOINES -- Iowans like to remind visitors that the hit movie, "Field of Dreams," was filmed in their state. In it, the hero builds a baseball diamond in the middle of nowhere to attract the greats of the game and is told, "If you build it, they will come."
The political version of that fairy tale was constructed here this weekend by the Iowa Republican Party. It held a straw poll of 1996 presidential prospects in conjunction with the party's state convention yesterday, and they came -- that is, seven 1996 hopefuls did.
But the winner of the poll turned out to be one potential White House aspirant who didn't come: Senate Minority Leader Bob Dole of Kansas. Mr. Dole, who won the 1988 Iowa Republican caucuses over George Bush and likes to call himself "the president of Iowa," got 356 votes in absentia out of 1,349 cast.
Votes among others listed:
* Former Gov. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, 205.
* Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, 200.
* Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Jack F. Kemp, 156.
* Former Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, 130.
* Former Vice President Dan Quayle, 81.
* News commentator Patrick J. Buchanan, 69.
* Former Education Secretary William J. Bennett, 59.
* Former Labor Secretary Lynn Martin, 20.
* Retired Gen. Colin Powell, 13.
Those getting fewer than 10 votes were former Secretary of State James A. Baker, former Sen. Howard Baker of Tennessee, Sen. Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Rep. Robert Dornan of California, Gov. John Engler of Michigan, House Minority Whip Newt Gingrich of Georgia, Gov. Tommy Thompson of Wisconsin, Gov. William Weld of Massachusetts, former Gov. Thomas H. Kean of New Jersey, Gov. Christine Todd Whitman of New
Jersey, Gov. Pete Wilson of California and former Gov. Pete DuPont of Delaware.
Senate Minority Whip Alan Simpson, also on the ballot, was shut out.
The size of this field of political dreams -- many probably won't run in the end -- reflected the wide-open early aspect of the contest for the 1996 Republican presidential nomination, a nomination deemed particularly valuable in Republican eyes that see President Clinton as especially vulnerable in his expected bid for a second term.
Iowa Republican Chairman Richard Schwarm touted the straw poll as "an early test" of strength, but the sample was so small and unscientific that it signified very little.
In his speech, Senator Specter criticized what he called an attitude of exclusion on the part of some members of the party's extreme right wing toward those who disagree with them on any one issue.
He cited the recent dominance of the "far right" in the party in more than 20 states including Iowa, charging that such delegates at the recent party convention in Texas had told "mainstream Republicans" that if they didn't agree on such issues as abortion they didn't belong in the party. Mr. Specter was booed when he observed that the Texas convention "was wrong philosophically because it violated the basic American principle of separation of church and state."
Mr. Buchanan, defending the Christian right and his speech at the Republican National Convention in Houston in 1992 that has been widely criticized as divisive, hit back in his customary style. "It is not the Christians who are going to be fed to the lions in November," he said, "it is the Democratic Party."