Branstad rejected: Iowa Straw Poll tradition to continue in 2015

Iowa GOP LogoRejecting the opinion of Gov. Terry Branstad, the Iowa Republican Party Central Committee voted unanimously today to hold its traditional Iowa Straw Poll fundraiser again in 2015. In a report by The Coralville Courier, State Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said the Central Committee recognized not only the importance of the Straw Poll for party fundraising, but also the organizing opportunity for Republicans across the state.

“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,” he said. “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.”

Details for the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll were not immediately announced. Previously, Branstad expressed hope the Straw Poll could be replaced with a series of five regional events — one in each congressional district and an additional centralized event — in comments reported in the media.

“I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness,” he said in 2012. “It has been a great fundraiser for the party, but I think its days are over.”

Branstad repeated those views more recently. He has not yet responded to the Central Committee’s vote.

The Iowa Straw Poll began in 1979. It is always held in the August of the year prior to a contested Republican presidential caucus vote. A presidential preference poll is taken during the event, which is often used as an early gauge of candidates’ networking ability in the state. The results of the presidential preference poll are not official or binding in any way.

In the six previous Iowa Straw Poll events — 1979, 1987, 1995, 1999, 2007, and 2011 — the presidential preference poll winner has gone on to win the Iowa Caucus only three times. Except for 2011, when the event was won by then-U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, either the winner or the second-place finisher in the Iowa Straw Poll went on to win the Iowa Caucus. The winner of the Iowa Straw Poll has gone on to win the GOP presidential nomination only twice.

The Iowa Straw Poll is the Iowa GOP’s biggest fundraising event during a presidential election cycle. Coming off a highly successful 2014 General Election, Kaufmann said the Central Committee was eager to continue building off of the party’s momentum.

“In 2014, through extreme heat and cold, Iowans worked to elect the strongest Republican delegation we’ve sent to Washington in years,” he said in The Courier’s report. “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.”