Discontent with Ames straw poll grows, Iowa GOP stands firm
November 27th, 2012
01:41 PM ET
10 years ago

Discontent with Ames straw poll grows, Iowa GOP stands firm

(CNN) – The Iowa Republican Party is standing behind the Ames straw poll despite growing party discontent including the conservative National Review magazine calling for a quick end to the event.

The National Review called for the "slaying" of the Ames straw poll in an editorial posted on its website Monday, characterizing the event as a "mythic creature."

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"Ames does more damage than justice to the nominating process, and ensures that the country's first view of the Grand Old Party's latest presidential crop is through a distorted lens," wrote the National Review editors in a post Monday.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad spurred discussion of the future of the Ames poll last week, telling the Wall Street Journal the straw poll has "outlived its usefulness." Since Branstad's comments a growing voice outside of Iowa's GOP has advocated for the party to throw out the tradition.

"Ames voters are literally bought and paid for – candidates purchase tickets for their supporters and bus them into town for the straw poll – but the ticket concessions line the pockets of the Iowa Republican party," the editorial continued.

The editorial said though the poll is supposed to test a candidate's organizational abilities, more often than not, it has failed to identify the Republican nominee, pointing to former Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann who poured vast resources into the 2011 straw poll and won only to receive 5% of the vote in Iowa's January caucus.

Republicans within the state, however, are tightening their grip on the tradition that raises serious cash for the state's GOP committee.

Iowa GOP chairman A.J. Spiker said in a statement following Branstad's comments the Ames poll is "possibly the best way for a presidential campaign to organize" for the Iowa caucuses, and the state's Republican committee favors keeping the poll, according to a report in the Des Moines Register.

But despite calls for ditching the poll, as Spiker points out, it's not Brandstad or any Republican outside the Hawkeye State's poll to ditch.

"Whether or not to have the Iowa Straw Poll is a matter that will be decided in 2015 by the State Central Committee and the presidential candidates. Any talk prior to then is simply premature," he said Monday.

Branstad spokesman Tim Albrecht doubled-down on the governor's sentiment last week telling CNN Branstad believes the straw poll is a "disservice to Iowa Republicans in that it discourages top-tier candidates from attending, and therein threatens their participation in the caucuses."

Albrecht pointed to Sen. John McCain, the Republican nominee in 2008, and Rudy Giuliani, also a Republican candidate, as examples where the straw poll threatened their performance in the caucuses.

This year's Republican nominee Mitt Romney came in fourth, behind businessman Herman Cain in third and Texas Rep. Ron Paul in second in last year's straw poll. Romney opted out of the 2011 straw poll after 2007 when he poured many resources into the event only to suspend his presidential campaign shortly after the Iowa caucuses in February of the next year.

"The governor instead wants to have events that strengthen the caucuses, NOT weaken them," Albrecht continued, adding "Democrats don't have a straw poll, and they have had all their candidates participate in the last two contested caucuses. Republicans can't say the same."

Branstad told reporters in a weekly news conference that he would favor a series of regional events instead of the poll to raise money for Iowa's Republican Party and push candidates into the national spotlight, according to the Des Moines Register.

Iowa, considered by many to be a politically imperative state, draws potential presidential contenders in early to prove their chops and mingle with Iowa political elites to fast-track a career into the national spotlight.

President Barack Obama was thrust into the White House trajectory in 2008 after his victory over Democratic challengers in the primaries. And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, speculated to have 2016 aspirations, attended Branstad's annual birthday fundraiser over the weekend, possibly underscoring the state's continued importance in the early political process.

CNN's Dana Davidsen, Kevin Liptak and Jim Acosta contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2012 • Iowa • Terry Branstad
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    Let them have their fantasy election league fun. Don't spoil it for them. The Straw Poll is meaningless, and non-binding to anything that actually matters, anyway.

    November 27, 2012 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  2. Wire Palladin, S. F

    The straw poll brings out the real crazies of the GOP, and normal Iowans then reject them, and vote in the national election for a democrat.

    November 27, 2012 01:51 pm at 1:51 pm |
  3. Wire Palladin, S. F

    Santorum and Bachmann owe their successes to the Straw Poll.

    November 27, 2012 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  4. mcskadittle

    the republican primaries did the most damage to mitts chances in the general election. I saw a lot of Obama adds taking words directly from the other republican primary candidates mouths to use against mitt

    November 27, 2012 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  5. Lynda/Minnesota

    "And Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, speculated to have 2016 aspirations, attended Branstad's annual birthday fundraiser over the weekend, possibly underscoring the state's continued importance in the early political process."

    So . . . . . . . . is Rubio for or against the Iowa Straw Poll? Interesting to just throw his name around and not clarify his stance on . . . well . . . on straw polls. Perhaps he's yet to decide? Perhaps he's going to be another Mitt Romney weather vane?

    Rubio's got a lot to think about between now and 2016, yes?

    (I agree with Palladin. Straw polls bring out the GOP crazies, but nothing else.)

    November 27, 2012 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  6. v_mag

    Aw, get rid of the straw poll. It's meaningless and eats up news bandwidth. While you're at it, reform the primary system so that all states vote on the same day, so that those puny little states like New Hampshire don't skew the selection process. And another thing that would be good is to allow some new parties to really get involved in the presidential election instead of being marginalized. And dump the Electoral College. And disband the Republican Party.

    Or maybe, just do that last one. I'd be satisfied with that.

    November 27, 2012 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  7. Gurgyl

    This poll is just NONSENSE AND FARCE. GOP is extinct and defunct party. Learn this truth and digest it.

    November 27, 2012 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  8. Obama2012

    Iowa republicans just want to make money off these unelectable candidates!

    November 27, 2012 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  9. chilly g

    im a democrats and i could care less about the Iowa straw poll.

    November 27, 2012 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  10. ja

    lets stop the corrupt corporate donations,and such as the ones that bankrollded the romney fiasco

    November 27, 2012 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  11. rs

    The problem with the Iowa Poll is who gets picked. Perhaps the GOP would do better holding their straw poll someplace else- NY, LA, Philadelphia, St. Loius, etc. Either that or let the cows in Iowa vote- they might do a better job.

    November 27, 2012 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  12. Greg

    This is the second or third cnn story with wrong information on the winners of the ames poll last year. Get your act together CNN! The ranking last year was 1. Bachman 2. Paul 3. Pawlenty 4. Santorum 5. Cain 6. Perry (write in) 7. Romney. You arent even close with your ranking CNN...

    November 27, 2012 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  13. California Gary

    The Iowa straw poll is the most "above board" political event on the calendar if you ask me. It's the only one where the candidates literally try to buy votes.....up front and in the open. It serves no useful purpose, but at least the money changes hands in broad daylight. It's refreshing in that regard........

    November 27, 2012 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  14. Facts don't Lie

    one of the few that won the Iowa staw poll and actually went beyond it to win anything was GW Bush and of course we all know how that turned out in the end.

    November 27, 2012 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  15. Rick McDaniel

    Time for both parties to tell Iowa, enough is enough!

    November 27, 2012 03:00 pm at 3:00 pm |
  16. julia brown

    Why not just dump the Grover pledge along with all signers- and put Grover in PRISON? isn't that where a MAFIA should be? or should I say Bin ladens partner in crime?

    November 27, 2012 03:03 pm at 3:03 pm |
  17. 2012liberal

    @rudy and @sniffit u r my heroes on previous statement n debt ceiling. Missed posting n time. We're not worthy, we're not worthy lol

    November 27, 2012 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |