"Is one of the quirkiest rituals of the Republican presidential election calendar heading for the grave?" asks Neil King Jr. at The Wall Street Journal. "It is, if Iowa's Republican Gov. Terry Branstad has his say." Branstad believes that the Iowa Straw Poll — which since 1979 has been held every four years in Ames, Iowa, often months before the GOP nomination process actually kicks off with the Iowa caucuses — has "outlived its usefulness." The poll has long been billed as a trial run for the GOP primaries, but it has turned into a launching pad for obscure candidates willing to spend a lot of money to get people to vote for them. Last year's winner? Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.), whose candidacy flamed out upon contact with an actual primary.
Of course, the Iowa Republican Party is not very happy with Branstad's assertion. "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," said Iowa GOP head A.J. Spiker. "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." Of course, Spiker has skin in the game. The poll, in which hundreds of Republicans open their wallets amid a fair-like atmosphere, is a serious cash cow for the Iowa GOP.
The poll can wreak havoc on the GOP primary field. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, one of the most viable candidates running against Mitt Romney, dropped out of the race altogether shortly after losing the straw poll, which he had invested in heavily in a misguided attempt to show that there was grassroots enthusiasm for his candidacy. "Show of hands," says Allahpundit at Hot Air. "Given what you now know about how effective the left's Bain/tax returns/dressage attacks were on Romney, with his own comments about the '47 percent' the icing on the cake, who doesn't wish the famously blue-collar T-Paw had stuck around and taken his chances in the Iowa caucuses?"
Nevertheless, it appears, for now at least, that the Iowa GOP will go ahead and hold another Ames poll next primary season. But perhaps major candidates won't take part. "Branstad has now given future candidates a license to skip the event," says Craig Robinson at The Iowa Republican.