The Iowa GOP may still insist that it’s first-in-the-nation caucus is a national trendsetter when it comes to predicting the Presidential nominee, but at least they’ve now, finally, admitted that the Iowa Straw Poll, the yearly also-first-in-the-nation event that forced Presidential contenders to drag their entire staffs into broiling hot cornfields in the middle of August to compete for the love of self-obsessed Iowa politicos, Ethanol lobbyists and farmers we pay not to grow anything, has outlived its usefulness.
Thanks to a few key candidates who failed to express the requisite interest in the August event, the Iowa GOP has voted to cancel it for this year, at least. It may be back in the future, but for now, the Iowa straw poll is no more.
The Iowa Straw Poll is dead, leaving a heavier burden on winnowing an oversized GOP presidential field on Iowans who will cast the nation’s first votes in February in the caucuses.
The governing board for the Republican Party of Iowa voted unanimously Friday to cancel the straw poll, a milestone on the path to the White House that had passed the strategic tipping point. It was no longer a political risk for presidential campaigns to walk away from the straw poll, and too many of the 2016 contenders had opted to skip it for it to survive.
“We set the table and they didn’t come to dinner,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told The Des Moines Register and Radio Iowa Friday morning.
Apparently, the straw poll, which is a full day event where Presidential candidates are paraded around and feted like prize pigs at a county fair as they compete to earn votes, only succeeds because the Presidential candidates participate. The straw poll relies on candidates to haul their entire operation into the state for the week preceeding, packing up hotel rooms, spending money at local restaurants as they press the flesh of patrons, and snapping up thousands of straw poll tickets. According to the Des Moines Register, of the 23,000 tickets available for the straw poll, candiate operations purchased 18,000, which they would then give away to supporters who would show up and stack the poll in their favor.
When Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Mike Huckabee all failed to RSVP for the event, the Iowa GOP knew it was in trouble. No other “front-runner” had declared any interest in headlining the poll, so it was either beg Scott Walker, who hadn’t shown any interest, to come and anchor the event, or throw a party for Rick Santorum and lose a whole heck of a lot of money.
Part of the problem also seems to be that party leadership has changed significantly since the last go-round. Ron Paul secured most of the Iowa delegates in the 2012 caucus, putting members of the Ron Paul/Rand Paul coalition in charge of the party. They then made changes to make the straw poll cheaper for candidates to attend, which had the effect of making the event less lucrative – and much easier to cancel – for the Iowa GOP.
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