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Michele Bachmann: she may have killed off the Iowa Straw Poll

by Bill Prendergast on November 22, 2012

If you dream of being Queen of the Political Universe some day–you don’t want a reputation as the presidential candidate whose fail was responsible for finally killing off Iowa’s Presidential Straw Poll.

Michele Bachmann is in danger of earning that reputation, right now. She won the straw poll last year, beating all other Republican presidential candidates in the contest. Then she inadvertently demonstrated that the Iowa Straw Poll result is irrelevant: by running a crash-and-burn campaign ending with her resignation.

And: resulted in this “titanium-spined conservative’s” endorsement of despised moderate Mitt Romney–who went on to win the GOP nomination without even participating in the Iowa Straw Poll.

The Wall Street Journal, today:

…the straw poll of Republican voters in Ames, Iowa-is obsolete and should be eliminated, Iowa’s GOP governor says…

…The governor cited the results of the most recent Ames Straw Poll as evidence for why the event should be spiked: Rep. Michele Bachmann won in 2011, only to fizzle as a candidate soon after…

(Gov.) Branstad pointed to Ms. Bachmann’s rapid rise and fall in 2011 as Exhibit A for why the straw poll no longer makes sense. Her campaign invested heavily in the one-day event, busing in thousands of supporters from around the state and hiring singers such as Randy Travis to entertain them in a huge tent.

She beat Rep. Ron Paul (R., Texas) by 150 votes in the straw poll but never caught fire among the broader set of GOP voters in Iowa, placing sixth in the January caucuses.

That would be cool, if Bachmann out to be the presidential candidate whose high-profile fail finally proved the irrelevance of the Iowa Straw Poll once and for all.

But the poll was never a good indicator of whom Republicans would finally select as their nominee. And last year Bachmann’s and Paul’s success at the poll proved that the event was subject to capture by the wingiest of wing nuts. Wing nuts who would engineer wins based on candidate wingnuttiness alone. The wingnuts sent the GOP straw poll “winners” with no serious chance of winning a general election.

The event was embarrassing for the GOP anyway, because the Bachmann/Paul victories show the world that there aren’t enough sane Republicans to show up in Iowa and outvote the wingnuts. The television coverage and candidate selections made the whole party look crazy (when it’s really only 75% of the party that’s crazy these days.)

And it’s embarrassing for Bachmann, too. That victory in the straw poll turned out to be the highlight of her campaign. She’d done everything she could to win it–busing people in to swamp the rival nuts, paying Randy Travis, lying her a** off…Campaigning as an Iowan instead of a Minnesotan, remember that? (Post-implosion, she did another about face and went back to telling people she’s really a Minnesotan. If they decide to hold the Republican Presidential Straw Poll in New Guinea next time, Bachmann will show up there telling people she’s a Tiwi and wearing a bone through her nose.)

Republican extremists, wild-eyed or no, will want to keep the Iowa Straw Poll. But the plutocrat-and-proud-of-it establishment Republicans (to whom winning matters) will want to eliminate this tradition of free national media for deep-fried kook candidates that put a drain on the available supply of angry mindless followers.

Still: it sure would be sweet, if Michele’s success in Iowa turned out to be “the last straw.”


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