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Iowa Republican straw poll looks likely to survive

The Iowa Republican straw poll, a summertime political ritual where presidential candidates vie for support, apparently will live on.

Top Iowa Republicans had grown wary of the event, saying it too often spotlighted longshot candidates and had little use. In 2011, then -Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota won, while Mitt Romney, the eventual 2012 nominee, didn’t compete. Neither did former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who would prove to be Romney’s chief rival. Later that year, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, said the event had “outlived its usefulness.”

But activists wanted the poll, usually held in Ames in August, to survive. They pointed out it’s a useful fundraising tool and draws national media and attention to the state party.

The event is open to nearly anyone. Campaigns often bus in supporters and give them food and entertainment.

This year’s poll could be unusually competitive. Christian right conservatives tend to do well, and the field could have at least half a dozen candidates with appeal to that constituency.

Late Thursday, Iowa Republican Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said the national Republican Party had given the go-ahead to proceed with the straw poll. The party, though, was not enthusiastic, calling it little more than a media show. The state Republican central committee plans a vote Saturday morning on whether to hold the event.

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