I'm late to this, but Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad has called on the GOP to ditch the increasingly meaningless straw poll, accurately pegging it as simply a way for the party to raise money.
“It has been a great fundraiser for the party, but I think its days are over.”
The straw poll has a checkered history in even predicting the winner of the state.
Michele Bachmann won it in 2012 and came in 6th in the actual caucuses.
Mitt Romney won the 2008 straw poll after spending , and finished 9% behind Mike Huckabee in the actual caucuses. That was no ordinary second place finish, either. It was the first sign that Romney couldn't connect with the people he was trying to connect with (that's sort of been a problem with him).
George W. Bush won the 2000 straw poll and the Iowa caucuses, so the vigorous pro-caucus crowd can hang their hat on that one.
In 1996, Bob Dole and Phil Gramm tied in the straw poll. Dole ended up winning the caucuses, but Gramm finished 5th in the actual caucuses.
In 1988, Pat Robertson won the straw poll, and ended up losing the caucuses by 12%.
The major gripe over the years with the poll is that people who throw a lot of money at it tend to win (isn't that true of just about every political race, though), regardless of electoral appeal. It's primarily about who can bus in the most supporters, hire the most entertainment, hand out the most, um, gifts.
Michele Bachmann reportedly spent nearly $1 million on the 2012 straw poll, Mitt Romney reportedly spent $1.5 million on the event in 2008, Steve Forbes spent $2 million on it in 1999, and Phil Gramm threw $800K at it in 1996.
Every single one of those candidates ended up losing the Iowa caucuses.