The Iowa GOP Straw Poll -- which even its organizers say has turned into a “high-stress and expensive endeavor” -- is getting a makeover.
The Aug. 8 event, instead of showcasing how much money candidates are willing to spend on securing a spot and feeding attendees, will “get back to its roots,” Iowa party chair Jeff Kaufmann writes in Politico.
“Simply put, it is time to relegate the pay-to-play nature of the Iowa Straw Poll to the dustbin of history,” Kaufmann wrote, adding, “(We’ll leave the "pay to play" politics to the Clintons.) Here in Iowa, so long as a Republican candidate can afford the plane ticket to Iowa, they are welcome in Boone on August 8.”
The changes include eliminating the traditional candidate "land auction," in which campaigns bid for real estate on the straw poll grounds. Instead, campaigns will be given space at no expense on a lottery basis.
And the event will provide food via Iowa State Fair-style vendors and local organizations, rather than having the campaigns provide the food, which Kaufmann said added to the cost of participating and “cheapened the straw poll as campaigns tried to win votes with local delicacies, not good ideas.
“We’re electing a president—not a Top Chef,” he said.
The non-binding straw poll’s move from Ames to the Central Iowa Expo in Boone will provide campaigns with free electricity and more parking, he said.
The move comes as candidates have questioned the escalating costs of the closely-watched, but often flawed test of presidential candidates’ mettle.
It traditionally attracts thousands of activists from around the nation’s first caucus state and can be a barometer of who is strong in the state and who is not.
But winning the poll isn’t necessary a huge boost or even an indicator of who will prevail in the caucus – in 2011, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., topped the straw poll, but her campaign quickly went nowhere. She wound up finishing last among major candidates with 5 percent in Iowa’s 2012 caucus.