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Iowa GOP reconsiders Ames straw poll

The Iowa GOP looks likely to hold their presidential straw poll in August 2015 despite objections from the state's Republican governor, Terry Branstad, who has argued that the tradition has lost its value and could cost Iowa delegates at the 2016 Republican convention.

"I'll be honest," Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told The Des Moines Register on Monday. "We want to have an event where we can attract all the candidates."

Every four years since 1979, Republican hopefuls gather in Ames, Iowa for a fundraiser benefitting the state GOP and a chance for the presidential candidates to make their pitch to voters. The campaigns shell out thousands of dollars to buy tickets for activists, and will often transport them to the event and feed and entertain them all day.

After the 2012 election, Branstad argued that the straw poll "has outlived its usefulness" in a Wall Street Journal interview and suggested its time was up. Last Sunday, he told the Cedar Rapids Gazette that he's "willing to agree to a statewide meeting that would give all of the candidates that came in a chance to speak and have tents and have similar things, but just not have a vote."

Iowa Republicans are waiting for two things to make a final decision about whether or not to participate, the Register reported. First, they want a letter from the Republican National Committee's legal staff that clarifies Iowa will not lose any of its delegates for holding an unsanctioned vote ahead of the Iowa caucuses. They also want to ensure they don't lose money holding the event, since renting space at the Iowa State University campus is costly.

At his weekly press conference Branstad said he would let the state's Republican central committee make the final call but wanted to be "welcoming" to all candidates. The state party's governing committee will vote on the issue will be made on Jan. 10, according to the Register.

One reason detractors like Branstad call the straw poll outdated is because it is notoriously inaccurate at predicting the ultimate winner of the Iowa caucus. In 2011, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minnesota, won the straw poll before limping to a sixth-place finish in the January caucus with just five percent of the vote. It also dashed the presidential ambitions for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who spent much of his campaign's money in Iowa and most of his time in the month leading up to the straw poll in Iowa and ended up in third place, with less than half of the votes Bachmann received.

The ultimate caucus winner, Rick Santorum, finished fourth.

Since the straw poll began in 1979, just two winners went on to become the caucus winner and eventual GOP nominee for president in a contested election: Bob Dole in 1995 and George W. Bush in 1999.

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