The Iowa GOP decided to move its straw poll to the weekend of the RedState Gathering. We had been working with them to make sure the two would not conflict, but they chose otherwise. Consequently, we have worked on our end to make sure the candidates can get to the Gathering and then to the Iowa Straw Poll. However, in trying to put a bigger spotlight on the straw poll, the Iowa GOP separated it from the Iowa State Fair, where most of the action happens. The straw poll will now not coincide with the fair.
And now they’re having all sorts of trouble. Today the Iowa GOP is having to tout to journalists that they’ll have “fantastic internet, sweeping vistas of Iowa farmland and a climate-controlled area.” That’s their selling point.
But the fact is that no one wants to win the Iowa Straw Poll. That is the reality. Winning the Iowa Straw Poll has become such a pyrrhic victory that historians are thinking of renaming the Pyrrhic War the Straw Poll War.
Candidates spend vast amounts of money and, in the process, they win the straw poll only to lose the Iowa Caucus and the election at large.
George H.W. Bush won the 1979 Iowa Straw Poll. He went on to win the Iowa Caucus and lose the nomination race to Ronald Reagan. He was the last person to win the straw poll and caucus outright until his son in 1999.
In 1987, Pat Robertson won the poll and lost the Iowa Caucus to Bob Dole. George H. W. Bush went on to win the nomination.
In 1995, Dole had to share the straw poll price with Phil Gramm, though Dole went on to win the caucus and nomination.
In 1999, everyone ceded the field to George W. Bush, save McCain, but McCain largely bypassed Iowa altogether.
In the post-Bush era, we have had two remarkable blow ups proving why no one wants to win the straw poll.
Mitt Romney won it in 2007 only to lose Iowa to Mike Huckabee. But neither of them bested McCain for the nomination.
In 2011, Tim Pawlenty spent vast sums to win the Iowa Straw Poll. He blew it and was forced to withdraw completely from the race. But [mc_name name=’Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B001256′ ] won the straw poll, then wiping out in the caucus as Rick Santorum won. But that didn’t stop Romney from winning the nomination.
The Iowa Straw Poll has become a contrary indicator. The person most likely to win it, is most likely not to be the GOP’s nominee, let alone the winner of the Iowa Caucus.
Iowa’s Republican Governor Terry Branstad in 2012 said, “I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness.” He’s right. This year, the straw poll is not even connected to the Iowa State Fair, so the glad handing and meeting of potential caucus voters is more limited. But hey! You’ll always have those sweeping Iowa vistas and internet service.