Let's talk a little about the Ames Straw Poll held in Iowa this weekend shall we? Yes Michelle Bachmann won. First, here is the vote tally:
1) Michele Bachmann received 4,823 votes, totaling 28.6%
2) Ron Paul received 4,671 votes, totaling 27.7%
3) Tim Pawlenty received 2,293 votes, totaling 13.6%
4) Rick Santorum received 1,657 votes, totaling 9.8%
5) Herman Cain received 1,456 votes, totaling 8.6%
6) Rick Perry (write-in) received 718 votes, totaling 4.3%
7) Mitt Romney received 567 votes, totaling 3.4%
8) Newt Gingrich received 385 votes, totaling 2.3%
9) Jon Huntsman received 69 votes, totaling 0.4%
10) Thaddeus McCotter received 35 votes, totaling 0.2%
Scattering received 162 Votes, totaling 1.0%
It's important to note, Perry was a write in candidate that got more votes than Mitt Romney. Ms. Bachmann won the poll by less than 1 percent. What does this mean?
Not much. As I have posted in various places (and is finally being talked about a little bit more) the Ames Straw poll is essentially a Republican fundraiser. A straw poll ticket costs 30 dollars to vote in a poll sponsored by the Republican party of Iowa. Tally up the votes taken on Saturday and you can see that $506,760 dollars were taken in -- for the Iowa GOP. That is ticket costs alone. I want to address those tickets in a moment.
It should be worth noting that this particular poll has been around since 1979, and is held, according to wiki
, on a 'Saturday in August of years in an election cycle in which the Republican presidential nomination seems to be undecided (that is, in years without an incumbent Republican President running for re-election).' Lot's of qualifiers there, I'd say. Also, interesting in that this year, for the first time it appears, a write in candidate slot was afforded to people
Straw poll voters must be Iowa residents with a photo ID to prove it. Anyone 16-and-a-half or older is eligible. A sample ballot showed nine names in all and a chance to write in a candidate.
“One thing we've never had before is a write-in opportunity. Given that it's a very fluid field right now and given there are some candidates who may be announcing shortly, we wanted to provide that opportunity for Iowans to vote for someone who isn't on the printed ballot,” Strawn said.
In other words -- the Iowa GOP can make up the rules as it sees fit. In the past (to their credit) when they saw that there was possible fraud, the party made a few changes
Even though the poll dates back nearly three decades, it was only in 1999 that it began to take on the significance it has now. Until that most recent straw poll, charges of cheating ran rampant at the event (voters would have their hands stamped, run into the bathroom to wash the ink off, and go vote again), meaning that no one took the results too seriously. In 1999, the Iowa GOP officials began using indelible ink that couldn’t be washed off as well as posting voting monitors at the voting areas and in all the bathrooms to ensure more reliable results.
There is something else to be noted in this article:
Tickets to the event in 1999 were $25 apiece, which all the campaigns gladly paid for in return for a vote. Parking cost money, which again, the campaigns paid for – if you even drove your own vehicle and didn’t take one of the free buses the campaigns chartered. Each campaign had tents outside the main hall for which they paid money – increasing in price the closer to the hall the tent space was (the apex being Bush’s tent, which was closest to the hall and cost him $63,000). At each tent, the campaigns offered food and drinks as well as live music from famous musicians, all free. Steve Forbes even hosted a carnival of sorts, complete with children’s rides that he rented and set up. All in the quest to attract voters.
That was 12 years ago. This practice continues to this day. Campaigns buy blocks of tickets in advance. People can buy them individually, but they don't have to. This year the ticket price was lowered to thirty dollars:
Tickets for the event cost $30, but many of the campaigns buy blocks of tickets and give them away. Buses bring in supporters from around the state, and there is food, entertainment and speeches.
Go back and take a look again at how many votes Rick Perry got as a write in candidate. I have to wonder who bought those 718 tickets in order to vote. Turns out a 527 group was there representing Rick Perry: Americans for Rick Perry.
Interesting also is that 1999 was the first year they insisted that people be a resident of Iowa
"The 1995 straw poll … was an example of how mock elections can be controversial," Yepsen wrote this week in the Des Moines Register. "In 1995, several campaigns bussed in out-of-state supporters to vote for their candidate."
In hopes of adding legitimacy to this year's contest the organizers promised to check for proof of residence before allowing people to cast their ballot.
So this all begs the question: Is the Straw poll an indicator of who the GOP Presidential candidate will be? We've seen block ticket purchases, people being bussed in from other states, now bussed in from around the state and criticisms of how legitimate the votes have been. Let's take a look at the history of the actual poll results, Iowa, GOP nominations and Presidential election outcomes.
In August 1979, George H. W. Bush won the straw poll and also won the Iowa Caucus. The GOP presidential Candidate was Ronald Reagan, who went on to become President. The next Ames Straw poll would be held August of 1987.
Pat Robertson won that year. However, in the Iowa Caucus, we saw Bob Dole as the victor. When it came time to nominate a GOP candidate, it was George H. W. Bush. He became President. 1995 was an interesting year. Bob Dole & Phil Gramm literally tie with 2,582 votes. Bob Dole won the caucus and the nomination. Bill Clinton became our nation's next President. So far, I'm not seeing much of a political indicator here at this point, to be quite honest. Then came 1999.
George W. Bush won across the board, although I think it is fair to say -- winning is questionable. We know what happened the next 8 years. 2007 brought us the next display of deep fried politics. Romney won the poll, Huckabee won the caucus -- John McCain was nominated. He lost the Election.
So, basically, two people who have won this straw poll in the past have gone on to win the GOP nomination. One became President. $35 is a drop in the bucket to what these candidates spend. I honestly wouldn't put a lot of faith in - or be particularly concerned about - a straw poll that moves the goalposts (and bank accounts). It wishes to be a barometer of who will be running against the President but doesn't really appear to have a good track record. Throw in a little modern day PAC money and I think it is even less legitimate.
Most media won't tell you that.