Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Terry Branstad says he’d like to see the Iowa GOP hold an event this summer to showcase all the party’s presidential candidates — but the party should not conduct a Straw Poll. An Iowa Straw Poll has been held in Ames since 1979 in each summer before the GOP has had a contest for its presidential nomination.

“I think a lot of people like the idea of having an event like we’ve had in Ames for many years, but I believe a number of the candidates have chosen not to participate because they don’t think it’s necessarily representative,” Branstad says. “The most important thing is to keep the Iowa Caucuses first in the nation and the first real test of candidates.”

George W. Bush won the Iowa Straw Poll in 1999 and went on to win the Iowa Caucuses as well as the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2000. Neither of the Iowa Straw Poll winners since won the Caucuses or the party’s presidential nod. In fact, John McCain skipped the Straw Poll in 2007 and Mitt Romney did not participate in 2011. Branstad says a “fun, summertime event” could be staged and give all the candidates “an opportunity to be exposed to Iowa voters.”

“And obviously this is a decision to be made by the Republican State Central Committee, not me,” Branstad says. “But I think that we want to be welcoming to all candidates. I want to encourage ’em all to come and participate and I think you could have an event like that without actually taking a Straw Poll.”

Branstad has said before that the Straw Poll has “outlived its usefulness,” and he proposed a series of regional events for candidates, but is now expressing support for a “big event” for all the candidates this summer. Branstad says holding the Straw Poll could conflict with recent changes in Republican National Committee rules for state-level voting contests in 2016 that determine how many delegates a state gets to send to the party’s national convention.

Branstad made his comments during his weekly statehouse news conference.

AUDIO of news conference