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Iowa Republican state chair says it’s time to change Straw Poll

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For years, veteran political scribes and even some politicians have blasted the Iowa Straw Poll, traditionally held every August in the year before the following year’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.

Generally it’s been decried as a media-driven event that places way too much significance on the results (we all saw how Michele Bachman’s “win” in 2011 helped her out the next year). “A delightful fraud,” the Chicago Sun-Times Roger Simon called it earlier this year.

It’s also been blasted as a pay-for-play deal, with campaigns having to pay to participate.

“Take a pass,” probable presidential candidate Lindsey Graham told Radio Iowa in March. “I’m not going to go, you know, pay people to vote for me. We’ll let the people of Iowa do it for free. To me, the Straw Poll is more of a political sideshow.”

Apparently, Iowa Republicans are aware of the criticism, and made a move in March to change things up when the Republican State Central Committee unanimously voted to move the event to Boone, Iowa, where it will be held at the Central Iowa Expo. They’ve also eliminated the traditional candidate “land auction,” where campaigns bid for real estate on straw poll grounds. This year there will be no cost to the candidates, with the traditional auction of prime-time space being replaced by a random lottery draw.

But there’s much more, all laid out by Republican Party of Iowa state chairman Jeff Kaufman in a story posted on Politico today.

Kaufman’s piece is titled, “It’s time to change the Iowa Straw Poll,” and he also writes that campaigns will also no longer have to engage in purchasing food for straw poll attendees. However, the good news is that there’ll still be those long-time classics like pork chops on a stick, corn dogs and something called “Dutch letters.”

And he writes that every lot provided for free also comes fully loaded with electricity, “removing yet another obstacle for candidates who previously had to supply their own generators, electrical hook-ups, and infrastructure needs.”

And it will even be more user friendly for those who attend the straw poll, as the Expo “boasts ample and close parking.”

And reporters score as well, with WiFi and “a climate-controlled area for you to file as deadlines loom.”

So what’s not to like anymore? Boone is starting to sound like fun.

The Iowa Straw Poll takes place on August 8.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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