In what is being characterized as a blow to Rand Paul, the Ames Straw Poll may be no more in Iowa, but the good news is that Iowa will continue to be an arena of ideas where so-called “moderates” will compete with conservatives to see who will lead the Republican Party in 2016. That’s good news for Iowa and good news for the Republican Party, but very bad news for Rand Paul, by all accounts.
Establishment forces officially wrested control of the Iowa Republican Party from supporters of Rand Paul on Saturday, a development the victors said would help save the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucus from being marginalized and possibly spell the demise of the Ames Straw Poll.
The transfer of power to those loyal to Gov. Terry Branstad — which has been in the works for months but was completed on Saturday — increases the likelihood that center-right GOP candidates, such as Chris Christie or Jeb Bush, will choose to compete in the caucus. It also jeopardizes next year’s straw poll: Branstad said the annual ritual has “outlived its usefulness,” and other critics say it’s become a spectacle that raises a lot of money for the party but has little significance politically. Pro-Paul forces, however, enthusiastically support the event and want to keep it going.
Of course, I will remind you that Rick Santorum won the 2012 Iowa caucus. Michele Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll and raised a lot of money in the process, but did not win any states in the 2012 primary.
Let the debate begin.