Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is pushing to end the state’s Republican straw poll, but the state party chairman says the event may still go on next year. Branstad said Monday that the poll — traditionally held in Ames the summer before a contested presidential caucus — is a turnoff for many candidates and could diminish the power of the state’s caucuses. “I believe that a number of candidates have chosen not to participate because they don’t think it’s necessarily representative,” Branstad said. “The most important thing is to keep the Iowa precinct caucuses first in the nation and the first real test of strength of candidates.” But State Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said he thinks there’s interest in continuing the tradition, provided it’s permissible under Republican National Committee rules.
First held in 1979, the Iowa straw poll has grown from a county GOP fundraiser stop to a large event on the Iowa State University campus, where candidates spend heavily to entertain and bus in supporters. The poll, which draws a small percentage of would-be caucus attendees, is one early test of campaign organization.
The Republican Party of Iowa runs the poll. Kaufmann said the State Central Committee, which governs the party, will meet next month and he expects a vote on whether to hold a straw poll.