Thoughts on the Death of the Straw Poll

The Iowa GOP cancelled the Straw Poll last Friday. But didn’t it feel more like just pulling the plug. The Straw Poll died last cycle when Michele Bachmann blatantly bought the win, finally bringing into full view that the emperor truly had no clothes.


Iowa is used to being the center of attention in August every four years.   And over the years, what began as ‘invitations’ to attend events turned into ‘demands’ and electoral punishment if candidates were not brought to heel, with their checkbook in hand.

Over a year ago, Erick Erickson and I started thinking about how best to integrate our RedState Gathering into the primary cycle. Since the Straw Poll had always been the opening weekend of the State Fair, we found the schedule online and booked our event the weekend before and advised the state GOP leadership that we were looking forward to launching all the candidates directly to Iowa.

So much for the ‘get along’ plan. Before the holidays we began to hear things were ‘flexible’ and ‘nothing was set in stone’. I even made a trip to Des Moines in January to appeal in person for a cooperative schedule. No such luck. The Iowa GOP believes they call the shots. I am told the date change was made due to some internal conflict among factions of the state party. Not…our…problem. Leaders lead, leaders solve problems.

The true losers in this whole charade are the Republican voters of Iowa. They were ill-served by their party leadership. A few brave candidates took a pass early, others delayed a decision, and that silence was deafening. The ship had already taken on too much water.   The clamor for the RNC to revisit the schedule altogether is getting louder every day.


Perhaps this whole episode will bring about a fresh round of humility in this primary season. I am from Kansas. The voters of Kansas are no more or less able to discern the value of a Presidential candidate than voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. We all need to remember this fact as we make our way toward January of next year. Every vote in every state matters.

My invitation today is for Iowa Republicans to join us in Atlanta that August weekend for the RedState Gathering. We have asked all the candidates to present their ‘Vision 2020’ telling us what America would look like when they are running for a second term if elected in ’16. No votes for sale, no fake polls. Just the candidates standing in front of you, taking your questions, talking about how we can all come together and make America great. You’ll have one heck of a time.

Bryan Pruitt is a Washington, DC based director at RedState. He can be reached at [email protected].


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