Scott Conroy | Terry Branstad: Maybe the Ames Straw Poll has outlived its usefulness

Basking in her triumph, Bachmann allowed herself to think far beyond the January caucuses on that promising, summer afternoon.

“Now it’s on to all 50 states!” she shouted to the media throngs who jostled to get a glimpse of the victor.

In the end, Bachmann wouldn’t even make it to New Hampshire. A day after finishing dead last in the January caucuses, in which she earned just 1,223 more votes than she had received 4½ months earlier in Ames, Bachmann ended her campaign and became a footnote to the 2012 presidential contest.

The straw poll, long billed as the most important early barometer of the race for the Oval Office, had once again predicted nothing.

In a Wall Street Journal interview published Wednesday, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad voiced out loud what had long been clear to most observers of Republican presidential politics: “I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness. It has been a great fundraiser for the party, but I think its days are over.”

In many ways, Branstad was merely stating the obvious. After all, since the first iteration was held in 1979, the Ames Straw Poll has been won by only two candidates who went on to become the nominee the following year — Bob Dole in 1995 and George W. Bush in 1999 — and both of them had already been widely viewed as front-runners.


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