A tradition in Republican politics since 1979, the Iowa Straw Poll is no more. The last time around, Michele Backmann won the straw poll in 2011 and, of course, went on to flame out in the Iowa caucuses quite badly. The Straw Poll has not been shown to be a very good indicator of Iowa caucus results. In fact, many credit the 2011 straw poll results with prematurely ending the campaign of Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty.
The 2015 round was suffering from a lack of candidates willing to participate and constant criticism that the event was meaningless. Under those circumstances, Iowa Republican leaders decided to pull the plug.
Report from Politico:
The Iowa straw poll, a once-vaunted presidential tradition since 1979, died a swift death Friday, when Republican leaders in the Hawkeye State voted unanimously to nix the event amid flagging interest and unsustainable costs.
The vote, which came during a morning conference call of the 16-member Republican Party central committee, canceled the straw poll scheduled for Aug. 8 in Boone County. Though several leading Republican candidates had already signaled that they wouldn’t participate, the event still held promise for lesser-known candidates, who have relied on the straw poll to draw attention to their longshot campaigns in previous years.
It’s unclear whether this will be the end of the straw poll in future years as well.
““I’ve said since December that we would only hold a straw poll if the candidates wanted one, and this year that is just not the case,” said state GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann in a statement. “For that reason I called a special meeting to update the State Central Committee, which then voted unanimously this morning to cancel the event. This step, while extremely distasteful for those of us who love the Straw Poll, is necessary to strengthen our First in the Nation status and ensure our future nominee has the best chance possible to take back the White House in 2016.”
Part of the calculus was lagging interest from candidates in participating. Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee — the 2008 Iowa caucus winner — had all opted out of the straw poll. other candidates, like Scott Walker and Rand Paul, hadn’t committed yet. And even those who decided to attend indicated they would only make speeches.
Craig Robinson, of The Iowa Republican blog, argues that the straw poll has meaning whether or not it correctly predicts the caucus results:
Even though Michele Bachmann flamed out after winning the Straw Poll in 2011, it’s not fair to suggest that the event doesn’t give us a glimpse of what to expect in the caucuses. If you take out Bachmann and Phil Gramm’s first place finishes in 2011 and 1995 respectively, the Straw Poll has actually been a solid indicator of what’s going on in Iowa in advance of the caucuses.
The media seems to think that the only way for the Straw Poll to be legitimate is if the winner of the event goes on to win the caucuses. The truth is that, in the six Straw Polls that have been conducted over the years, the candidates who finished first and second in Ames finished first or second in the caucuses four times.
I think the biggest change that occurred over the past several cycles is how candidates who don’t win Iowa can still go on and win the nomination. Why bother competing in the straw poll if your path to the nomination doesn’t include Iowa anyway? It takes a lot of resources to bus in supporters and place well in the straw poll, resources that could be better spent winning actual primaries in other states.
So for now, we bid farewell to the Iowa Straw Poll.