A veteran of Iowa Republican Party Straw Polls of the past says there’s a key element that makes this year’s event unique. Brian Kennedy, a lawyer from Bettendorf, has been involved in three of the five Straw Polls that have been held.

“I think this year is different than past years because the candidates who are competing are new faces,” Kennedy says. “They are candidates who haven’t been around the track before in Iowa, so we’re going to learn a lot on Saturday.”

The only candidate who has competed in Iowa before is Texas Congressman Ron Paul, who is making his third run for the White House. Paul finished fifth in the 2007 Straw Poll and has said he is “all in” for this year’s event.

At the Straw Poll in 1995, Kennedy was chairman of the Iowa Republican Party and he had to announce there was a tie between Bob Dole and Phil Gramm.

“That might have been the peak of Phil Gramm’s campaign,” Kennedy says. “We can’t read too much into the Straw Poll because somebody may have a great day in August, but not produce a lot of votes for the Caucuses.”

For the 1999 Straw Poll, Kennedy was working as national political director for Lamar Alexander’s campaign.

“We really knew our last, best chance to turn the tide was to come to Ames and score well at the Straw Poll and we spent the last, oh, probably month with the entire campaign staff here in Iowa, with Lamar Alexander in a Winnebago going from county to county,” Kennedy recalls. “We had thrown everything but the kitchen sink at it, but it wasn’t quite enough.”

Kennedy backed Mitt Romney in the last campaign and this year he is chairman of the Iowa leadership team for Romney. Romney won the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll, but chose to skip it this year.