On Saturday the Republican Party of Iowa State Central Committee voted 16-0 to proceed with the planning of the Ames Straw Poll. This result was expected after the Republican National Committee’s legal counsel confirmed that holding the straw poll would not be in violation of the rules passed at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
Iowa GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann said in a released statement, “In 2014, through extreme heat and cold, Iowans worked to elect the strongest Republican delegation we’ve sent to Washington in years. These are the same voters and volunteers who make our First-in-the-Nation Caucuses so special and who have traditionally made the August straw poll such an exciting experience. The Central Committee recognizes the straw poll fundraiser is not only an important organizing event for Iowa Republicans, but also provides the only opportunity during the Iowa Caucus process where candidates can speak to tens of thousands of voters in a single event. I look forward to working together with activists and candidates to ensure the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll fundraiser is a vibrant and mutually-beneficial event.”
The event traditionally held in August at Hilton Coliseum on the campus of Iowa State University will but up against the FAMiLY Leadership Summit which is planned for August 15, 2015 the same weekend that the previous three straw polls have been held. Exact details of the event including time, location, and structure, the Republican Party of Iowa said would be determined after Saturday’s vote.
Who will participate? That remains to be seen. In the past the candidates who are planning to participate typically meet in June to bid on real estate around Hilton. That process could change however.
Governor Terry Branstad’s public opposition to the straw poll will give some “cover” for establishment candidates to skip out. I think that was going to be a possibility regardless. Florida Governor Jeb Bush doesn’t appear to be very interested in campaigning in Iowa. 2012 Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney now says he’s considering a run, and he skipped out last time. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has been working to develop relationships in Iowa. Should he run, he may be participate, and that may pressure others to do so as well.
What I doubt we’ll see is candidates making “all-in” investments to win the straw poll. I certainly wouldn’t advise any candidate to do that. Candidates should treat this event as a way to introduce themselves to Iowa activists, get their message out, and gauge the strength of their ground game.
Where the real investment should be made is getting around the state and establishing the organization needed to turn voters out on caucus night. That is what wins the Iowa Caucus for a candidate (that and a platform that resonates with voters), not sending busloads of people to Ames on their campaign’s dime.