The Iowa Straw Poll — a Republican Party mainstay long tasked with helping to weed out serious presidential contenders from the long-shot hopefuls — is no more.
The Republican Party of Iowa unanimously voted to pull the plug on the 36-year-old tradition Friday in a closed-door session that included Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kaufmann and members of the state party’s central committee.
In January, the Iowa GOP board had voted 16-0 to go ahead with the tradition. The one-day political confab had a storied history of luring Republican presidential candidates and mixes in live music and food.
For 2015, it was scheduled to be Aug. 8 at the Central Iowa Expo near Boone, Iowa.
It is unclear whether the gathering will be brought back in future years.
“I’ve said since December that we would only hold a straw poll if the candidates wanted one, and this year that is just not the case,” Kaufmann said in a written statement. “This step, while extremely distasteful for those of us who love the Straw Poll, is necessary to strengthen our First in the Nation status and ensure our future nominee has the best chance possible to take back the White House in 2016.”
Among the GOP’s presidential contenders who had opted to skip out on the event were former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
Recent in-state polling regarding the straw poll has been mixed.
The Des Moines Register and Bloomberg Politics Iowa Poll in May said that 51 percent of likely GOP caucusgoers believe it’s important for a presidential candidate to attend the straw poll, while 47 percent don’t see it as important.
Some state and national Republicans have chastised the straw poll for chipping away at Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential picking process.
Others have said that bad blood developed between past presidential candidates and their Iowa-based operations.
“The last couple go-arounds have been extravagant and pricey,” said Jeff Jorgensen, the chairman of the Pottawattamie County GOP, drawing direct attention to the 2012 event. “Iowa desperately needs to narrow down this field. We’re not going to have a real front-runner after the Iowa caucuses.”
The festival began as a state party fundraiser and gained an influential opponent in 2012, with Republican Gov. Terry Branstad casting wide criticism. The now six-term governor proclaimed that the event had lived out its usefulness.
But this time around, the governor has flip-flopped. Branstad was planning to attend the straw poll and had encouraged all candidates to attend the event in addition to other gatherings across the state, said the governor’s spokesman Jimmy Centers.
Centers said Thursday the governor would have thrown his support behind the party’s decision.
Republican State Rep. Norlin Mommsen, a freshman lawmaker who never got the opportunity to attend the straw poll, said he viewed the gathering as “a good way to rally the faithful” and energize the party’s base.
“To me, it looks like the perfect place to utilize their time,” Mommsen said of the event.
The 2016 Iowa caucuses have been tentatively set for Feb. 1, 2016.
Reach Quentin Misiag at [email protected] or 202-408-1494. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebookand follow us on Twitter.