Here’s another blog post that is at least a bit more straightforward about disliking the results of the Ames straw poll rather than the process. Our Frum Forum blogger is at miffed that candidates who didn’t try to turn out their supporters at the straw poll received fewer votes than candidates who did:
The straw poll has no predictive (or even descriptive!) value. In 2007 Rudy Giuliani and John McCain together received a grand total of less than 2% of the vote. A visitor from Mars would have never guessed that one of these gentlemen was the indisputable front-runner at the time, topping 40% in nationwide polls of Republicans, and the other would eventually go on to win the nomination.
The “indisputable front-runner” who was “topping 40% in nationwide polls of Republicans” didn’t win a single delegate and finished no better than third in any state. So Ames might have been more predictive of Giuliani’s fortunes than those polls that showed him topping 40 percent. As for McCain, and the usual recycling of “the poll also failed to predict the winner of the Iowa caucus four months later,” Mike Huckabee’s second-place finish at Ames is precisely what set him up to win the caucuses four months later. And by derailing Romney’s early state strategy, Huckabee allowed McCain to recover in New Hampshire and win the nomination.
Ames has never derailed “serious” candidates who are “serious” in the sense of actually having real, live voters behind them. Nobody is pretending that Romney or Rick Perry is doomed because they didn’t actively compete in Ames. This is why voters get to determine which candidate has a “realistic” chance of winning.