Iowa Straw Poll dies a well-deserved death

The Iowa Republican Party has bowed to the inevitable and canceled the Iowa Straw Poll, a cattle call for candidates that over the decades has proved to be a burden for campaigns. 

Historically held in Ames in mid-summer before the Iowa Caucuses the following January, the straw poll had been held since 1979.  Its death knell was sounded when most of the major GOP presidential candidates announced they would skip the poll.

Des Moines Register:

There were three reasons the Iowa GOP board decided to not go forward with the Aug. 8 event in Boone, Kaufmann said. There was too little interest from the presidential contenders; the fundraiser likely wouldn't have made enough money to break even; and there were concerns about jeopardizing Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses — Iowa party officials were getting blowback from national influencers for appearing to be bullying contenders to compete.

"Am I disappointed? Yes," Kaufmann said. "But I don't say this really with any animus toward the candidates. They made decisions that were good for their campaign. I would much rather spend my time highlighting Hillary's dysfunctionality as a potential president than trying to gain a particular candidate by backing them into a corner and forcing them into Boone."

For GOP activists in Iowa, the summertime political festival was a beloved tradition that dated to 1979. The daylong festival showcased the party's presidential candidates and to brought Iowa Republicans together for food, music and field-winnowing. But its fate rested in the hands of the presidential campaigns, who drove attendance by spending resources to haul in their supporters. Four years ago, the party sold about 23,000 tickets, and about 18,000 were purchased by the campaigns.

Several key 2016 contenders — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee — had decided against dishing out the big bucks that it can take to win the straw poll. Party officials needed at least one legitimate player to participate, but the Iowa frontrunner, Scott Walker, declined to commit or even signal any interest.

Ample cover for ditching the straw poll was delivered by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who had declared at the end of the 2012 presidential election that it had "outlived its usefulness." And a recent Iowa Poll showed that while a slight majority of likely GOP caucusgoers thought it was important for presidential candidates to participate in the straw poll, almost as many dismissed it as unimportant.

Back in January, the Iowa GOP board unanimously to proceed with the event.

"Was it a mistake? I don't think so," Kaufmann said Friday. "It was an overwhelming 'yes' to have it."

In the past, the poll served to winnow out larger fields of candidates.  But as a legitimate test of strength, it left a lot to be desired.  It was chiefly a fundraising gimmick for the Iowa GOP, and over the years, it had less and less to do with presidential politics.

Pushback from Republicans across the country was threatening the position of the Iowa Caucuses being first in the nation.  There is growing dissatisfaction with the outsized influence the Caucuses have on the race, and some Republicans suggested that the Straw Poll only increased that influence.  Its death may be missed by some Iowa GOP committee members, but most of the rest of the country is breathing a sigh of relief at its demise.

The Iowa Republican Party has bowed to the inevitable and canceled the Iowa Straw Poll, a cattle call for candidates that over the decades has proved to be a burden for campaigns. 

Historically held in Ames in mid-summer before the Iowa Caucuses the following January, the straw poll had been held since 1979.  Its death knell was sounded when most of the major GOP presidential candidates announced they would skip the poll.

Des Moines Register:

There were three reasons the Iowa GOP board decided to not go forward with the Aug. 8 event in Boone, Kaufmann said. There was too little interest from the presidential contenders; the fundraiser likely wouldn't have made enough money to break even; and there were concerns about jeopardizing Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses — Iowa party officials were getting blowback from national influencers for appearing to be bullying contenders to compete.

"Am I disappointed? Yes," Kaufmann said. "But I don't say this really with any animus toward the candidates. They made decisions that were good for their campaign. I would much rather spend my time highlighting Hillary's dysfunctionality as a potential president than trying to gain a particular candidate by backing them into a corner and forcing them into Boone."

For GOP activists in Iowa, the summertime political festival was a beloved tradition that dated to 1979. The daylong festival showcased the party's presidential candidates and to brought Iowa Republicans together for food, music and field-winnowing. But its fate rested in the hands of the presidential campaigns, who drove attendance by spending resources to haul in their supporters. Four years ago, the party sold about 23,000 tickets, and about 18,000 were purchased by the campaigns.

Several key 2016 contenders — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee — had decided against dishing out the big bucks that it can take to win the straw poll. Party officials needed at least one legitimate player to participate, but the Iowa frontrunner, Scott Walker, declined to commit or even signal any interest.

Ample cover for ditching the straw poll was delivered by Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who had declared at the end of the 2012 presidential election that it had "outlived its usefulness." And a recent Iowa Poll showed that while a slight majority of likely GOP caucusgoers thought it was important for presidential candidates to participate in the straw poll, almost as many dismissed it as unimportant.

Back in January, the Iowa GOP board unanimously to proceed with the event.

"Was it a mistake? I don't think so," Kaufmann said Friday. "It was an overwhelming 'yes' to have it."

In the past, the poll served to winnow out larger fields of candidates.  But as a legitimate test of strength, it left a lot to be desired.  It was chiefly a fundraising gimmick for the Iowa GOP, and over the years, it had less and less to do with presidential politics.

Pushback from Republicans across the country was threatening the position of the Iowa Caucuses being first in the nation.  There is growing dissatisfaction with the outsized influence the Caucuses have on the race, and some Republicans suggested that the Straw Poll only increased that influence.  Its death may be missed by some Iowa GOP committee members, but most of the rest of the country is breathing a sigh of relief at its demise.