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Governor of Iowa: Straw poll outdated

| Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012, 6:20 p.m.

Since 1979, would-be Republican presidential candidates have headed to Ames, Iowa, for the Iowa Straw Poll — which has long been cast as one of the earliest indicators of how presidential candidates will fare in the Iowa caucuses and the GOP primaries. The state's Republican governor, however, thinks it's time to put an end to the tradition.

“The straw poll has outlived its usefulness,” Gov. Terry Branstad told the Wall Street Journal. “It has been a great fundraiser for the party, but I think its days are over.”

GOP presidential candidates buy tent space and pay to get their supporters out in force — providing food, entertainment and even a political speech or two — in the hopes of a good showing. The event raises money for the Iowa GOP.

The results aren't binding — and they've rarely been a predictor of who will win the Iowa caucuses or the presidential nomination — but they can be a sign of enthusiasm for a candidate and potential grass-roots support.

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won the Iowa Straw Poll last summer, but she couldn't translate that into votes at the GOP presidential caucuses in January. She dropped out after the caucuses.

The eventual Republican presidential nominee, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, never actively campaigned for votes at the straw poll even though his name appeared on the ballot.

Gov. Branstad cited those results as one piece of evidence of the poll's diminishing value.

“You saw what happened the last time,” Branstad said. “I don't think candidates will spend the time or money to participate in a straw poll if they don't see any real benefit coming out of it.”

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