Thursday, January 8, 2015

RNC memo gives Iowa Straw Poll a green light

Jennifer Jacobs at the Des Moines Register has the story.

FHQ has already commented on this on Twitter, but I'll rehash some of that and expand on it here.

First of all, this argument/concern from within and around the Republican Party of Iowa that the Ames Straw Poll would violate the Rules of the Republican Party always seemed a bit overblown. On the one hand, one could consider it a statewide vote of sorts, which would put the contest in violation of the RNC rules cited above (Rule 16.a.1).1 Again, of sorts. But while it is an event conducted by the Republican Party of Iowa -- the state party -- it is not and has never been a part of the party's delegate selection process. RNC legal counsel, John Ryder, says as much in the memo drafted as a response to RPI's query on the straw poll.2 It is an event; a fundraiser for the state party.

Now, none of this is to say that Ames does not matter. The real question is how the straw poll matters. Value is placed on the contest, unscientific though it may be, by the media and some campaigns not because it is a straw poll but because it is a straw poll in the state that holds the first delegate selection event on the primary calendar. Other state parties hold -- and will hold in 2015 -- straw polls of their own. But Ames is the one that is associated with the caucuses in the Hawkeye state. No, Ames is not decisive. No, Ames is not predictive of what will happen later in caucuses. Ames is a winnowing contest. It may not weed out a frontrunner, for instance, but it is part of the process in the lead up to primary season -- the invisible primary -- that finds an often robust field of candidates shrunk down to a decreasing number of players. Ames winnowed Lamar Alexander in 2000, Sam Brownback in 2008 and Tim Pawlenty in 2012. It claims its victims, but so do other events as well as just plain old poor campaigns/candidates.

The Republican Party of Iowa -- memo from the RNC in tow -- will make its decision on the fate of the Ames Straw Poll in a meeting on Saturday.

1 It would be a violation of the RNC rules if the the Republican Party of Iowa failed to allocate delegates based on the straw poll results. ...if the straw poll was part of the delegate selection/allocation process.

2 Below is the full memo from the RNC's Ryder (via Jacobs):

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John said...

Iowan here to nitpick: While "Ames" and "Straw Poll" have long been used interchangeably in this context, the Straw Poll this year will be in Boone, IA, not Ames.

Josh Putnam said...

Right. But keep in mind that I wrote that post in January before the Boone decision was made.