Iowa tradition since 1979 will continue, some changes possible

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An Iowa tradition started in 1979 will continue after a unanimous vote by the Republican Party of Iowa’s state central committee. The straw poll normally held in Ames was in jeopardy of being cancelled after the Republican National Committee passed new rules governing the primary season calendar. The state party received word Thursday that a straw poll would not violate those rules.

Trudy CavinessIowa’s top elected republican, Governor Terry Branstad has been an outspoken critic of the straw poll in recent years. “I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness,” Gov. Branstad told the Wall Street Journal in 2012. “It has been a great fundraiser for the party but I think its days are over.” Trudy Caviness, Wapello County GOP chair and State Central Committee member says that the governor has spoken with state GOP Chair Jeff Kaufmann, and says he will be involved in encouraging candidates to participate in straw poll. “So I’d say he’s on board,” Caviness told KBIZ.

Questions still linger, including where the event will be held.  The party, barbecue, and grip and grin event is typically held at the Iowa State University campus in Ames, but the rental cost is by far the biggest expense of the event. “We’ve always done it at Iowa State, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other venues that are suitable, so we’re going to look into several (options),” Caviness says.

The straw poll has historically been inaccurate, but Kaufmann points out that the event is not a predictor  for who will win Iowa, or even who has momentum at the time of the poll, but rather stands as a fundraiser and a chance for voters to meet as many candidates as they can in one location. Trudy Caviness expects a good turnout this year, “With as much publicity as we’ve had about the straw poll, I think we’ll have a large group of participants. I would like to see us work toward having more undecided participants come. (With more people,) it would be more of an advantage to candidates to come and meet people face to face, so I think we will see more and more presidential candidates there.”