Derek Hunter

Worth Its Weight In...Straw

With all the news of doom and gloom and threats to halt Social Security checks, you might not have noticed there is a political event coming up that the media will inevitably hype - the Ames Straw Poll. Some Republican Presidential candidates will be falling all over themselves to get a few people to vote for them in a meaningless “event” in the small town of Ames, Iowa.

Why do I say it’s meaningless? Because it is. A look at the history of the Ames poll shows no correlation between the winner and the eventual nominee. More importantly, it shows no correlation between the winner and the winner of the Iowa Caucus. It’s pointless, unless your goal is to waste a lot of money.

The poll started in 1979, so there’s no storied history here, no long tradition of...well, anything. But let’s pretend for a second, shall we?

Here is a list of the winners of the Ames Straw Poll since it started: George HW Bush (1979), Pat Robertson (1987), Bob Dole and Phil Gramm (tie) (1995), George W Bush (1999), Mitt Romney (2007). Notice anything? Only 2 candidates won the nomination that election cycle. Moreover, only 1 1/2 of them went on to win the Iowa Caucus that cycle (Dole ‘96, W Bush ’00).

So what’s the point?

Some would argue momentum or fundraising, but there is no momentum from it. And, given its record of meaninglessness, the number of people who give based on it is insignificant. Yet, for reasons unknown, candidates take it seriously. Tim Pawlenty is dumping a million dollars into Iowa ahead of the poll. Why? His hiring of Sarah Huckabee, daughter of 2008 Iowa Caucus winner Mike Huckabee, might have something to do with it since she helped with the 2008 caucus. But Huckabee lost the nomination, so why follow that model?

Maybe he and the other participating candidates (some aren’t even playing in Iowa) think it will give them momentum going into New Hampshire. Does it? Let’s take a look.

Here are the winners of the New Hampshire primary since 1980: Ronald Reagan (1980), George HW Bush (1988), Pat Buchanan (1996), John McCain (2000 & 2008).


Derek Hunter

Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist. You can also stalk his thoughts 140 characters at a time on Twitter.