Iowa GOP cancels 2015 Straw Poll

Iowa GOP LogoBy The Iowa Statesman


Following a telephone conference call this morning, the Republican Party of Iowa’s State Central Committee voted today to cancel the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll, previously planned for Aug. 8 at the Central Iowa Expo east of Boone. The final vote was 17-0 with national committeewoman Tamara Scott abstaining.

Prior to the call, which had been previously planned to receive an update on planning for the event, a large number of the Central Committee members indicated they wanted to see the event continue, if it could remain financially viable — in other words, it would not result in a financial loss for RPI. Sources within the RPI and several of the campaigns indicated only one candidate was willing to fully participate in the event, and ticket sales were lagging significantly below expectations.

In a press release issued shortly after the vote was taken, party chairman Jeff Kaufmann issued the following statement:

“I’ve said since December that we would only hold a straw poll if the candidates wanted one, and this year that is just not the case. For that reason I called a special meeting to update the State Central Committee, which then voted unanimously this morning to cancel the event. This step, while extremely distasteful for those of us who love the Straw Poll, is necessary to strengthen our First in the Nation status and ensure our future nominee has the best chance possible to take back the White House in 2016.

“Through the whole process we’ve listened to Iowa activists and our Republican candidates. We listened in January when a groundswell of support prompted the Central Committee to continue the decades-old tradition. We listened when we moved the Straw Poll location from Ames to Boone to lower costs. We listened when we passed those savings on to our candidates by getting rid of the expensive lot auction and reduced costs even further by planning to bring more outside food vendors.

“Now, we’re listening again. Many candidates are still concerned about participating in an event that carries significant media-driven expectations well ahead of our First in the Nation Caucuses. While we still deeply believe that the Straw Poll offers a fantastic opportunity for candidates, we need to focus on strengthening our First in the Nation status and putting a Republican back in the White House.

“Canceling the event is not a decision anyone on the State Central Committee took lightly, and I commend them for the thorough, thoughtful job they’ve done. Iowa is First in the Nation because of our strong grassroots tradition and because we believe in a process that gives equal chance to all candidates. We also believe in hosting a process that puts our candidates in the best position possible to win the White House in 2016.”

There was growing concern — with pressure from the Republican National Committee building behind it — that the Iowa Straw Poll had become a “shakedown” of the candidates that did little to actually winnow the field, as it was originally intended in 1979. Some in the Iowa GOP hierarchy also believed the negative attention on the Iowa Straw Poll was damaging efforts to maintain the state’s first-in-the-nation status, which were already hurt by the 2012 miscount and the delegate controversy at the national convention in Tampa later in the year.