The Last Straw for Some
By Steve Deace
Iowa is a state best known for its agriculture, so it’s only fitting that at about 7 p.m. Eastern time on Aug. 13, it will apply the first winnowing fork to the Republican presidential race.
That’s approximately when the Republican Party of Iowa is scheduled to announce the final results of the upcoming Iowa Straw Poll, an event that in the past has winnowed the field from pretenders to contenders despite what its detractors claim about its irrelevance.
Just ask Lamar Alexander and Elizabeth Dole if the Iowa Straw Poll matters. Poor showings in Ames back in 1999 cost them their campaigns. Even four years ago, after front-runners Rudolph. W. Giuliani and John McCain backed out of the event, it still mattered enough to eliminate Sam Brownback following a third-place finish behind Mike Huckabee’s surprising second-place surge.
The Iowa Straw Poll matters because it’s the first real test of the two things that matter most in the first-in-the-nation caucus state: organization and star power. A candidate must have either the organization to get supporters identified and to Ames or the star power to draw them on their own. Rarely does a candidate have both, as George W. Bush did in 1999.
Minus a candidate with that lethal combination, the field this year is very fluid. I still talk to many people who are either uncommitted, willing to be persuaded away from the candidate to whom they’re currently committed, or who describe themselves as leaning toward someone more than fully committed to him or her. It means that without a bona fide front-runner, there is something at stake for each candidate.
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