Governor Would End Closely Watched Iowa Tradition

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DES MOINES, Iowa — Iowa Governor Terry Branstad has said it many times recently. But each time he says it, he likely makes it more apparent the Republican Party of Iowa has held its final Straw Poll.

“We’ve had discussions,” Branstad said Monday morning of his talks with top party leaders about what could replace the straw poll in 2015.

Branstad several times said it will be up to his party’s state central committee to make the final decision on whether to end the straw poll, a much-watched event his party has held since 1979.

The party holds the straw poll in August in the year preceding the presidential caucuses. Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann won 2011’s event, which may have actually helped to kill future events.

Bachmann became the first woman to win the event in Iowa, a historical moment of fame for the Iowa-born candidate. But she fizzled fast after the event and became little more than a footnote with her eventual sixth-place finish on caucus night.

Bigger names like Texas Governor Rick Perry and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich skipped the event, which can cost candidates hundreds of thousands of dollars for the food, entertainment and transportation.

Critics question the value of the straw poll if top candidates don’t take part, especially since the event has no binding standing on the caucuses. It merely shows a strength of money and organization at that time.

The governor has pushed for a series of regional events to replace the straw poll, but so far, neither he nor the party has provided specifics.


  • John Smith

    The straw poll is a fundraiser for the state GOP, and has been for as long as I remember. The last two or three cycles, the media has done its damnedest to try to make it into something more meaningful than it ever was. To their credit, the local GOP officials have pretty much never done so.

    So, if the straw poll is to be done away with, the state GOP is going to have to find a source of funds to replace it. Personally, I think I prefer to stick with the devil I know.

  • Riverrunner

    Jeff Kaufman, the head of the Iowa Republican Party, was interviewed last month. He said: “that a long time ago, at least a decade, the straw poll was a fundraiser. However, he went on to say: “Expenses have increased dramatically and, to be honest with you, we have to look at our dollars and cents in terms of our expenditures here because we certainly cannot lose money on event like that and it’s not as lucrative as anyone thinks.”

    It would be good for the reputation of the Republican Party of Iowa, and for the reputation of the entire state, if the straw poll were to be greatly downsized. I am not sure if eliminating it altogether is the right course, but looking at the alternatives would probably be a good idea.

    • John Smith

      Was it his contention, then, that the Straw Poll has NOT been a fundraiser for over a decade, now? Because, as near as I could tell from the news reports, it was most certainly a fundraiser in more recent cycles than that.

      • John Smith

        Thank you, RIVERRUNNER, very much! It is very hard for me to believe that the state GOP would have continued this event as a money-loser. Last one I actually attended was the 2000 cycle, and it was obviously a fund-raiser then. In any event, if raising funds is not the purpose, whatever could the purpose be?

  • Sammy

    It is a worthless poll as the results from the last one clearly showed and certainly does not give good indication of who may get the nomination for the party. Michelle Bachmann never stood a chance, and it only made us Iowans look foolish!

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