By Kay Henderson
DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) - Iowa Republicans will hold an unofficial poll this summer to gauge how the party's presidential hopefuls are faring before the state chooses a candidate for president in 2016, party leaders said on Saturday.
The 'straw poll' has been a traditional tool to stoke grassroots enthusiasm ahead of the Iowa Caucus - typically the first major statewide event to select a national candidate for both major parties.
"Our grassroots are important and I think that means that tradition is important,” Jeff Kaufmann, chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, said after a unanimous vote endorsing the ballot.
Some Republican leaders have warned that the party could hurt itself with a prolonged and contentious selection process but the national party this week endorsed the informal, Iowa Straw poll.
Mitt Romney, the Republican U.S. presidential nominee in 2012, told a meeting of donors on Friday he is considering another White House bid in 2016.
The statement came as top party donors line up behind former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who said in December he would actively explore a presidential run.
More than a dozen other possible serious contenders could still run, including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
(Writing by Patrick Rucker in Washington; editing by Andrew Hay)