A Lot To Account For

Before we forget about the Ames Straw Poll for a few months, I’d like to report a spirited defense of the relevance of the event by Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican. He goes to considerable lengths to describe as outliers two particularly non-predictive Straw Poll victories, that of Phil Gramm in 1995 and of Michele Bachmann in 2011, and his arguments are fairly persuasive if circular (yes, Bachmann behaved erratically after winning Ames, but that was hardly a first for her).

But even granting that most people who read his site are Republicans, he jumps the shark with his clinching argument for the Straw Poll:

One final thought. Perhaps the best salesperson for the Iowa Straw Poll is it’s most famous victor, President George W. Bush. He is what he had to say about the event.

Two months ago, when my Iowa supporters convinced me to participate in this straw poll, some pundits said I had nothing to gain and potentially a lot to lose. Well thanks to you, we gained a lot. We have accomplished what we set out to do. We jump-started our grassroots organization for the main event, the Iowa caucuses. Today was also a great day for the Republican Party of Iowa. There is a new energy in this state, there is a new enthusiasm in this state. And this new energy will help Republicans take back the White House in the year 2000.

The winner today was not just George W. Bush. It was the Republican Party and our great ideas. It was the democratic process. This is a great festival of democracy that we participated in today. I want you to know this is just the beginning. I have a lot of work to do. But the victory in Iowa put me on the road to earning the nomination of the Republican Party.

George W. Bush

August 14, 1999

Yeah, Iowa Republicans have a lot to account for.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.