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Does the Ames Straw Poll matter?

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | AUGUST 18, 2011 7:20 AM

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YES

Before the results and subsequent outcomes of the Republicans' Ames Straw Poll were made available, I gave little attention to its media veneration. I thought the poll was useless and naïve way of predicting presidential primary outcomes. However, my outlook on the seemingly trivial event changed after the results were announced and former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who placed a distant third in the poll, dropped out of the race.

Before conceding, Pawlenty had been portrayed as a Republican presidential-nomination front-runner. Right-leaning members of the media loved his strong conservative stances on economic, national defense, and social policies. No one saw his surrender on the horizon.

Some say his concession had nothing to do with the poll results, but Pawlenty didn't drop out of the nomination race because he realized he had a wedding to go to. He dropped out because he recognized that he garnered less than half of the votes second-place finisher Texas Rep. Ron Paul received. That is definitely indicative of the significance that the Straw Poll has on the election process.

Another outcome of the poll that is evidential of its importance is Paul's second-place finish. Paul was only 152 votes shy of sharing first place with Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann. Before the poll, Paul was viewed as a sort of cult favorite. He was not placed in the top-tier category of prospective front-runners, and he was believed to have a very minimal chance of a win in any primary. Paul's sizable finish has caught the attention of not only the media but also that of fellow candidates and Republican followers. Paul's poll numbers have potential to intimidate Bachmann and Gov. Mitt Romney (a conservative favorite who did not participate in the poll). The numbers may also boost the morale of Paul's followers who did not participate in the poll or influence followers from other states who have been lying dormant to get out and vote.

The Ames Straw Poll has caused a so-called front-runner to drop out and a purported underdog to become the topic of the week. If people contend that the poll has no effect on the election process, they are undoubtedly wrong.

— Emily Inman

NO

Absolutely, positively no — the Ames Straw Poll carries very little weight in affecting any election cycle, let alone a cycle with so many divisive candidates actively seeking the Republican Party nomination.

One needn't look any further than how the results were tallied Aug. 14 to understand the meaninglessness of the event. The top five (in order of finish): Rep. Michele Bachmann, Rep. Ron Paul, Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Sen. Rick Santorum, and Herman Cain.

Now, if people argue these five candidates are capable of winning a national election, let alone the GOP's nomination, they are gravely mistaken and prone to bits of fantasy.

Take Paul, for example. A libertarian and new-age conservative darling, he has carried youthful support to such high-profile conservative summits as the Conservative Political Action Conference.

This youthful following is so substantial it almost saw him edge past Bachmann to win the Straw Poll last weekend, leading some to suggest he's gaining momentum in his campaign.

Still, I'm going to have to agree with what "The Trump" said at the Political Action Conference on this one: Paul has no chance of even getting close enough to sniff a party nomination. He is too far off-base to appease mainstream conservatives, especially when candidates such as Mitt Romney start their spending sprees. Caucus season will come and go in Iowa, and so shall another Paul candidacy.

As for the other candidates, nothing was shown at the Straw Poll to suggest anything other than what most conservatives and politicos already know or think. It showed Pawlenty was not capable of organizing support (leading to his inevitable withdrawal), showed Santorum and Cain are still shoo-ins for the Dumpster, and showed that evangelicals still haven't had sufficient time to swing support from Bachmann to Perry.

No, for still another year, the Ames Straw Poll was a carnival. Hopefully, the media had their fun.

— Matt Heinze


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