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Ready, Ames, Fire: Why the Straw Poll Doesn’t Mean Much (Updated)
Written By: Jeff Ignatius
Section: Commentary/Politics

Category: Guest Commentaries

2011-08-15 19:20:29

(This is an updated version of the original article published August 10. The orginal version follows.)

The relevance of this past Saturday’s Ames Straw Poll is nothing but a self-fulfilling prophecy.

If a candidate doesn’t believe the straw poll important, there’s no reason a poor showing matters. Just ask John McCain, whose apathy toward Iowa earned him 10th-place finishes in 1999 and 2007 but didn’t stop him from earning his party’s presidential nomination in 2008.

If a candidate believes the straw poll important, a performance below expectations can mean the end of a campaign. Just ask Tim Pawlenty, who finished third on Saturday and withdrew the next day. Or Tommy Thompson, who dropped out of the presidential race after finishing sixth in the 2007 straw poll.

For a mix of both, ask Mitt Romney, who won the 2007 straw poll but didn’t win the Iowa Caucus or his party’s nomination. This year, he’s largely skipped Iowa, although he participated in August 11’s nationally televised debate from Ames. He finished seventh in Saturday’s straw poll, and you should read absolutely nothing into that.

Michele Bachmann certainly hopes that her victory Saturday portends good things for her campaign, but the past indicates that’s not a safe bet.

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