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Chairman Spiker Comments on the Iowa Straw Poll

“I believe the Iowa Straw Poll is possibly the best way for a presidential campaign to organize (put in place county and precinct leaders & activate them) for Iowa’s First in the Nation Caucus. I think it is detrimental for any campaign to skip the opportunity presented in Ames and I disagree with Governor Branstad about ending our Iowa Straw Poll.

The State GOP and the presidential campaigns will determine if there is an Ames Straw Poll come 2015.”- Chairman A.J. Spiker

http://blogs.wsj.com/washwire/2012/11/20/iowas-gop-governor-time-to-end-the-straw-poll/

Wall Street Journal

Iowa’s GOP Governor: Time to End the Straw Poll

 Is one of the quirkiest rituals of the Republican presidential election calendar heading for the grave?

It is, if Iowa’s Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has his say.

Eyeing the wreckage of the 2011 Ames Straw Poll, which Rep. Michele Bachmannwon only to fizzle as a candidate soon after, Mr. Branstad wants to do away with the whole thing.

“I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness,” Mr. Branstad said of the 33-year-old GOP ritual. “It has been a great fundraiser for the party but I think its days are over.”

Going back to 1979, Republican presidential contenders have flocked to Ames, Iowa, in August to eat fried food, dance to country bands and wheedle votes from the party faithful in what amounts to an overblown party fund-raiser disguised as a trial run for the real Iowa caucuses early the next year.

Its track record as an anointer of GOP nominees falls far shy of impressive. Only two victors, Bob Dole in 1995 and George W. Bush in 1999, went on to win the Iowa caucus the next year and then the nomination in November. And only one, Mr. Bush, went on to become president.

Still, other top Iowa Republicans bristled at Mr. Branstad’s suggestion that the sun had set on Ames.

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

In an interview, Gov. Branstad pointed to Ms. Bachmann’s rapid rise and fall in 2011 as Exhibit A for why the straw poll no longer makes sense. The Bachmann campaign invested heavily in the one-day event, busing in thousands of supporters from around Iowa and hiring singers like Randy Travis to entertain them in a huge tent.

The Minnesota Republican beat libertarian Rep. Ron Paul of Texas by 150 votes, but never caught fire in Iowa. She came in a very distant sixth in the January Iowa caucuses, getting just 5% of the vote.

“You saw what happened the last time,” Gov. Branstad said. “I don’t think candidates will spend the time or money to participate in a straw poll if they don’t see any real benefit coming out of it.”

Other Republican operatives in the state were aghast at the thought of killing off the Ames poll.

“I firmly believe it will live on,” said David Fischer, who helped run the 2012 Paul campaign. “There’s a market for it. There’s a demand for it. Will everyone participate? Maybe not, but it will elevate some people and not elevate others, just as it has in the past.”

Mr. Spiker, the GOP chairman, went a step further in praising the quadrennial rite. “There is nothing like it in the country and I am surprised any Iowan would ever talk it down.”

Matt Strawn, the former GOP chairman who organized the last straw poll, says he backs a move to tweak the event to downplay the vote “while still putting the candidates in front of tens of thousands of Iowa caucus-goers.” What that might amount to, he said, remains to be determined.