Senator John E. Sununu writes distainfully of the Iowa Straw Poll in Monday’s Boston Globe:
“Even to those who are familiar with the event, the most recent incarnations have been unseemly…. Responsibility for the poll getting out of hand falls partly on the party leaders in Iowa. Their quest for money and willingness to exploit what began as a modest, informal event tarnishes the reputation of the entire state. Their goal of maximizing revenues knows no bounds: venues closest to the entrance are auctioned off to the highest bidder. …But most of the blame should rest with the candidates themselves. They choose to participate, despite the fact that it’s difficult to show any correlation between performance in the straw poll and performance at the caucuses. Patronizing silly political events only inflates the stature of the silly political event, whether it involves wearing foolish hats, paying straw poll attendees, or – perish the thought – dancing in public….In this regard, Pawlenty got what he deserved. As much as any media outlet or campaign pundit, he set high expectations for the poll. … the average straw poll participant is far from the average voter. In Ames, a narrow but fanatic base can produce a great outcome. Just ask Ron Paul, who nearly won despite distributing far fewer tickets than Bachmann. The candidates who managed expectations effectively get to move on. Credit Rick Perry here – he announced his candidacy the day of the poll, saving himself the money, the aggravation, and perhaps some embarrassment.
New Hampshire hasn’t gone down the Ames road, nor should it. Sure, there are a few local straw polls, but nothing sanctioned by the state party. Primaries should be about personal interaction, issues, and demonstrating a broad appeal, not distributing $30 barbeque tickets. Ironically, Pawlenty had a far better chance of exceeding expectations in New Hampshire. He’d still be in the race if, like Romney and Huntsman, he had just said, “I’m not wasting my money in Ames.’’