Iowa gov. questions future of straw poll

Nov. 21, 2012 at 5:12 PM
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AMES, Iowa, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- Iowa's Republican governor said he thinks it's time the state party did away with the quirky Ames straw poll of presidential hopefuls.

Every four years, Iowa Republicans are courted at the state fair held in Ames, where candidates -- and the horde of media following them -- brave the Midwest August heat to partake in some fried food, country music and the first indicator of strength in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucuses, held early the following year, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad cited the straw poll's general failure to predict the caucus winner. Only twice since it began in 1979 has the Ames straw poll correctly predicted the winner of the Iowa caucuses -- in 1995 when Bob Dole won and again in 1999, when then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush was proclaimed the victor.

In 2011, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won after investing heavily to bus in supporters from around the state and hiring country star Randy Travis to play a rally, only to see her candidacy fizzle in the months following, eventually finishing a distant sixth in the January caucuses.

"I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness," Branstad said. "It has been a great fundraiser for the party, but I think its days are over."

Others in the Iowa GOP defended the straw poll.

"Gov. Branstad is wrong, and this is not a decision he will make, anyway," said A.J. Spiker, chairman of the state GOP. "It is a decision the party and the candidates will make."

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