“The Iowa Straw Poll Lives,” Says Iowa GOP Chair

Des Moines, Iowa — Iowa Republican Party leaders have unanimously decided to hold a straw poll, with the Iowa G-O-P’s chairman stressing it is a “snapshot” of the presidential race with “no binding effect” on the Iowa Caucuses. The Iowa G-O-P’s state central committee took a vote late Saturday morning.
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(as said)” Sixteen ayes and zero nays, the motion passes. The Iowa Straw Poll lives!”

Iowa G-O-P chairman Jeff Kaufmann told reporters he hopes to nail down the when and where within a month, but the Iowa Straw Poll will be held somewhere in central Iowa, sometime in August. He says the three likely venues are the Iowa State Fair, the fields near Boone where the Farm Progress Show is held every other year and the Iowa State University campus in Ames, where the past six Straw Poll events have been held.

(as said) “Certainly our grassroots are important and I think that means that tradition is important,” Kaufmann says. “So I think having it in central Iowa, having it in August is important.”

Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition president Steve Scheffler is one of Iowa’s representatives on the Republican National Committee. He’s also a voting member of the Iowa G-O-P’s state central committee and an advocate of continuing the Iowa Straw Poll.

(as said) “I am a big believer in it because it gives all candidates including candidates that don’t have a big name or a lot of money a chance to get out their messages,” Scheffler says. “And especially with a compacted schedule this year that the RNC has put together, if we don’t have a Straw Poll only those candidates with the most money and the most name I.D. are going to have a chance to go forward,” Scheffler says.

Loras Schulte of Norway, another voting member of the Iowa G-O-P’s state central committee, agrees the Straw Poll gives lesser-known candidates a chance to “really have an impact.” But Schulte says the Iowa Straw Poll also provides “a service” when candidates who fail to do well end their campaigns.

(as said) “If we don’t have this process that truly begins to winnow the herd, if you will — for better or for worse, it has served that purpose — I’d hate to come into Caucus Night in 2016 and have two dozen candidates still in the race,” Schulte says.

Trudy Caviness of Ottumwa, the long-time chair of Wapello County Republicans, stresses that the Iowa Straw Poll isn’t all about the candidates, though.

(as said) “It brings Iowans into a political arena,” Caviness says. “Many times there will be young people that say, ‘I went to (my) first Straw Poll and I really now am excited about this,’ and, you know, to move our country forward we have got to have more informed and active both young people and old people.”

Over a year ago, Governor Terry Branstad suggested it was time to retire the Iowa Straw Poll after critics warned it endangered the status of Iowa’s first-in-the-nation Caucuses. National party leaders assured Iowa G-O-P leaders that was not the case and Branstad issued a written statement Saturday afternoon saying he looks forward to working with Iowa G-O-P leaders to make this summer’s Iowa Straw Poll “a successful event.” As for whether some candidates will skip it, as John McCain did in 2007 and Mitt Romney did in 2011, Kaufmann says the event’s ultimate aim is to get grassroots activists excited about being Republicans.

(as said) “So as long as we have candidates there, it’s going to accomplish those goals,” Kaufmann says.

And Kaufmann suggests three of the six winners of past Straw Polls would likely be considered “establishment” candidates. Those would be George H.W. Bush in 1979, Bob Dole in 1995 and George W. Bush in 1999.

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