I love the Iowa Straw Poll. For those of you who have never been, it is a great party-like atmosphere. Every time I go I run into political friends that I have not seen in some time. I almost always use the opportunity to bring some of my less politically active friends out for a fun day to talk politics and get to hear the candidates. I often describe the atmosphere as State Fair North. Unfortunately this week two of the top Republican leaders in the state, RPI Chaiman A.J. Spiker and Governor Terry Branstad have been in an all too public quarrel over the future of the Straw Poll.
The controversy started when Governor Brastad said to the Wall Street Journal:
I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness … it has been a great fundraiser for the party but I think its days are over.
In response, RPI Chairman A.J. Spiker described the move to The Daily Beast as:
… a continued effort to make sure that the political industry selects candidates rather than the grassroots …
In my previous post I noted that many viewed RPI’s donating money to every GOP legislative candidate as a way to funnel money to Ron Paul leaning candidates. In the case of the Straw Poll, many Ron Paul supporters (like Chairman Spiker who was a paid Ron Paul staffer) see this as a move to prevent Rand Paul from organizing effectively in Iowa for 2016 and letting the GOP establishment handpick the eventual nominee.
In both issues, funding legislative campaigns and the Straw Poll, I believe the rhetoric has gotten out of hand. Of course, this sort of factionalism within the Iowa GOP is nothing new — only the players have changed. Several years ago, I referred to the factions as the gods and the mods. You might say today that we still have the gods and the mods but now a third group, the pauls, are in the driver’s seat at RPI.
As an SCC member, I have been asked numerous times in the past few days where I stand on this issue. I think the fact that the past two GOP nominees skipped the straw poll is probably a good indicator that RPI should at least consider the viability of the Straw Poll going forward. Add to that the huge disconnect between both Michelle Bachmann’s 2011 Straw Poll win and her dismal performance in the Iowa Caucuses and one must really question whether the Straw Poll is relevant today.
When you look at the arguments for the Straw Poll in the media and on the blogs, mentally replace Straw Poll with Iowa Caucus and you will see they are exactly the same arguments. Yet, as the pauls constantly remind us, the Iowa Caucus is just a Straw Poll as well and their candidate worked for and ultimately won Iowa’s delegates. So why should Iowa have two straw polls? Historically both have served to narrow the field and other states have cried foul.
The Straw Poll has been a very effective fundraiser for the party, but as TheIowaRepublican points out the majority of those funds have been corporate funds that RPI could not use in campaigns. Back in the day, when every candidate showed up, the Straw Poll was an awesome event. I would still like to see some sort of statewide event that would put the GOP field in front of a wide cross section of Iowa Republicans, I just don’t know if the Staw Poll is till the right way to make this happen. I am not ready to get rid of the Straw Poll just yet, but I believe that all options should be on the table.
To put it in perspective, the Straw Poll won’t really be on the agenda until after the 2014 elections. This SCC may choose to weigh in on the issue but it will be the nexr SCC that ultimately decided the future of the Iowa Straw Poll.