The Iowa Straw Poll Is Dead

GOP tradition since 1979 canceled due to expense, lack of interest
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2015 10:41 AM CDT
The Iowa Straw Poll Is Dead
In this Aug. 13, 2011, file photo, Republicans enter Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa, before casting their ballots in the Iowa Republican Party's Straw Poll.   (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)

For nearly 40 years, Iowa held its straw poll for Republican hopefuls every summer before the presidential caucuses—but the poll set for this summer is now dead, the AP reports. Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann tells the news agency that state GOP officials made the decision in a unanimous vote during a conference call this morning, with the AP noting the tradition is ending because some 2016 candidates have already said they won't show up and because it's become nothing more than a "costly sideshow." "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," Kaufmann says, per the Washington Post. "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."

Since 1979, the Post explains, the straw poll has served two main purposes: to bring money in for the Iowa GOP and show off the candidates. But critics say the event has become too expensive, resembles a carnival, and hasn't had a stellar success rate at predicting how well hopefuls will eventually do: The Post points out that Michele Bachmann emerged victorious in the 2011 poll held in Ames, then finished last in the 2012 caucuses; it's actually only been right about the GOP nominee twice. Some Republicans launched an 11th-hour campaign to try to save the poll (see: this late-May op-ed in the Des Moines Register), but their efforts weren't enough. One person who likely won't be upset about the poll's demise: Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who in 2012 proclaimed the poll had "outlived its usefulness," the Hill reported at the time. (More Iowa stories.)

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