Lack of in­ter­est is last straw for the GOP’s Iowa poll

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Kath­leen Hen­nessey kath­leen.hen­nessey@la­times.com Twit­ter: @khen­nessey

WASH­ING­TON — Iowa Repub­li­cans have can­celed their once-vaunted pres­i­den­tial straw poll, bow­ing to the re­al­ity that the decades­old po­lit­i­cal tra­di­tion now only threat­ened to spot­light the state’s di­min­ished role in the pres­i­den­tial race.

De­spite a packed field of can­di­dates vy­ing for the GOP nom­i­na­tion, too few planned to take part in this year’s pop­u­lar­ity con­test, which was to be hosted by the Iowa Repub­li­can Party on Aug. 8.

The mea­ger turnout would ren­der the poll a mean­ing­less con­test of al­so­rans — and an em­bar­rass­ment for Iowa politi­cos try­ing des­per­ately to hold on to their rel­e­vance as the gate­keep­ers of pres­i­den­tial pol­i­tics.

“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,” state party Chair­man Jeff Kauf­mann said in a state­ment re­leased af­ter what he said was a unan­i­mous vote.

“This step, while ex­tremely dis­taste­ful for those of us who love the straw poll, is nec­es­sary to strengthen our first-in-the-na­tion sta- tus and en­sure our fu­ture nom­i­nee has the best chance pos­si­ble to take back the White House in 2016,” he said.

The poll had grown into a ma­jor fundrais­ing event for the party and a ma­jor me­dia mo­ment for the can­di­date who man­aged to or­ga­nize enough sup­port­ers to win it.

It was of­ten cast as an early test of a can­di­date’s or­ga­niz­ing skill and viability, de­spite its spotty record of pre­dict­ing the even­tual vic­tor.

Then-Min­nesota Rep. Michele Bach­mann won the straw poll in 2011, for ex­am­ple, but dropped out of the race in Jan­uary 2012 af­ter plac­ing sixth in the state’s first-in-the-na­tion cau­cuses.

This year, sev­eral top-tier can­di­dates had de­clared early that they would not par­tic­i­pate, hav­ing con­cluded that the dated po­lit­i­cal rit­ual was not worth the time and money re­quired to win.

For­mer Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Ru­bio and South Carolina Sen. Lind­sey Gra­ham had RSVP’d no. Wis­con­sin Gov. Scott Walker would not com­mit.

Char­lie Neibergall As­so­ci­ated Press

REPUB­LI­CAN VOT­ERS gather in Ames for the 2011 Iowa straw poll. Few can­di­dates planned to take part in this year’s poll, so the state GOP can­celed it.

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