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Iowa's Ames straw poll lives on for Republicans in 2015

Triumphing over critics who called the event a distraction from Iowa's presidential caucuses, the Iowa Republican Straw Poll will be held as usual this August, the state's Republican Party announced Saturday.

The straw poll, which will be held at a party fundraiser in Ames, Iowa, is a quadrennial survey of Iowa Republicans that serves as a gauge of grassroots enthusiasm ahead of the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses. The event is beloved by conservative activists in Iowa, but in recent years it came under fire from state and national Republicans who feared the poll -- and the eccentric candidates it sometimes propels -- was distracting from the overall nominating contest and damaging the Republican brand.

"I think the straw poll has outlived its usefulness," Gov. Terry Branstad, R-Iowa, declared in a 2012 interview with the Wall Street Journal.

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The poll, which has been conducted every four years since 1979, has occasionally christened candidates, like George W. Bush and Bob Dole, who went on to win their party's nomination. But it has also occasionally elevated more unconventional figures -- like the 2011 winner, conservative firebrand and then-Congresswoman Michele Bachmann -- whose bids flamed out quickly thereafter.

In a statement, the chairman of the Iowa GOP central committee, Jeff Kaufman, said he "recognizes the straw poll fundraiser is not only an important organizing event for Iowa Republicans but also provides the only opportunity during the Iowa Caucus process where candidates can speak to tens of thousands of voters in a single event."

"I look forward to working together with activists and candidates to ensure the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll fundraiser is a vibrant and mutually beneficial event," Kaufman added.

The central committee voted unanimously, 16-0, to keep the straw poll in place. Details on time, venue and structure are expected at a later date.

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