Iowa GOP Votes to Cancel Straw Poll

iowa straw poll
AP file photo

The Republican Party of Iowa announced on Friday that it will cancel the Iowa Straw Poll, after too many of the Republican presidential contenders said they would skip it.

According to a report by the Des Moines Register, the governing board of the Iowa GOP voted unanimously, with one abstention, to cancel the Straw Poll, which had been scheduled for August 8.

The Iowa Straw Poll had been a popular event for Republican activists in Iowa since 1979. It features music, food, and a fair-like atmosphere. It was a major fundraiser for the state Republican party, which would sell thousands of tickets, and a chance for presidential candidates to establish themselves as early frontrunners or for underdogs to gain traction.

During the last few election cycles, however, the grumbling from campaigns increased, as the Straw Poll was viewed as too expensive of an investment and not predictive of the ultimate results in the Iowa caucuses. This year, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Gov. Jeb Bush (R-FL), and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR) had all publicly announced that they would skip the Straw Poll, and Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) did not send any representatives to an organizational meeting. With so many top contenders skipping the Straw Poll, its validity would have been further diminished.

As Breitbart News reported, the Iowa GOP published a letter in the Register a few weeks ago, urging the candidates to not skip the Straw Poll.

“In the past, the Straw Poll has drawn more than 20,000 caucus-going Iowa activists, which would make it the largest political gathering in the country,” said the letter. “It’s an incredible opportunity for us to meet the men and women running for president, but also an opportunity for you to meet a significant portion of eventual caucus attendees.”

These efforts, however, were in vain.

Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told the Register that the party was worried it might not break even with so few candidates participating. There were also concerns about jeopardizing Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, a status that Iowa holds very dear, but was coming under increasing criticism against what many viewed as bullying by Iowa party officials to push candidates to join the straw poll.

“We set the table and they didn’t come to dinner,” said Kauffman. “Am I disappointed? Yes. But I don’t say this really with any animus toward the candidates. They made decisions that were good for their campaign. I would much rather spend my time highlighting Hillary’s dysfunctionality as a potential president than trying to gain a particular candidate by backing them into a corner and forcing them into Boone.”

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.