Iowa GOP should end straw poll, state's Democratic chair says

But Republican leader says poll serves an important role

James Q. Lynch
Published: June 22 2012 | 2:22 pm - Updated: 31 March 2014 | 8:47 pm in
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Days ahead of a Republican panel taking up recommendations to fix what went wrong with the party’s 2012 precinct caucuses, the Democratic Party chair offered her own advice: Drop the GOP Straw Poll.

That’s not going to happen, according to Republican Parry of Iowa Chairman A.J. Spiker. It’s not even part of the conversation, he said June 22 during taping of Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, which airs tonight at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at noon.

“I think the straw poll is a very good thing,” Spiker said. The straw poll in August, before Iowa’s first-in-the-nation precinct caucuses, “gives the campaigns the ability to put in place the infrastructure to win come caucus night.”

However, Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky pointed out the winner of the 2011 straw, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, finished sixth in the caucuses, 20 percentage points behind winner Rick Santorum.

The party chairs did agree that confusion surrounding the results of the GOP caucuses poses some danger to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation status because it reflects badly on the caucus process.

“I am concerned about how this looks because we aren’t just any other state,” Dvorsky said. The fact Iowa Republicans declared multiple winners “is very bad for the conversation.”

On caucus night in January, the Iowa GOP declared Mitt Romney the winner with an eight-vote margin over Santorum. However, when the results were certified two weeks later, Santorum had 34 more votes than Romney.

In the wake of that confusion, Iowa Democrats have been in touch with the national party “to let them know we are doing fine and this national discussion is not on our side.”

“Frankly,” Dvorsky said, “there is concern, there is national concern, about this picture.”

Spiker acknowledged the concern, but believes the Republican National Committee “is very confident in Iowa and Iowa Republicans to run a great caucus.”

“We did run a really great caucus,” he said. “There were some issues with the announcement and we’re dealing with those.”

He expects the GOP’s Caucus Review Committee, which will meet June 25 in Sioux City, will recommend that no winner be declared on caucus night if the results are close.

Instead, Spiker said, the party will “put the numbers out and let them speak for themselves. Letting you folks in the media give your voice on what that means is probably the proper role for the party.”

Then “we’re not in the situation where we have results changing. That wasn’t helpful,” he said.

Dvorsky hoped that as part of its reforms, Republicans also would put an end to the straw poll. Although it’s great fundraising event, she called it a “dangerous political event” because it give the Iowa GOP two bites of the apple, which creates problems in convincing other states that Iowa should also be the lead-off state in the nomination process.

As far as Spiker is concerned, the straw poll is good for the presidential hopefuls’ campaigns as well as the Iowa GOP’s coffers.

“It gives the campaigns the opportunity to have a benchmark that come August we want to be organized for the Iowa caucuses,” Spiker said. “People, including the Democrats, make too much of the financial part. From the candidate perspective it’s a great gearing up for the big game.”

Iowa Press will be broadcast at 7:30 p.m. June 22, noon June 24 and 8:30 a.m. June 23. Iowa Press will be available online beginning the evening of June 22 at www.iptv.org.

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