Two and a half years ago Governor Terry Branstad suggested the Iowa Straw Poll had outlived its usefulness, but today Branstad is being careful not celebrate the decision Iowa GOP leaders made Friday to cancel the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll.
“I support the actions of the Republican Central Committee. I supported their decision when they decided they wanted to go ahead with it,” Branstad said. “The Straw Poll has always been theirs.”
But Branstad said “for various and sundry reasons” it was clear most of the 2016 Republican presidential candidates were not going to participate in the Straw Poll and the party stood to lose money by staging the event.
Some critics of the Straw Poll described it as a “shake down” of the candidates, many of whom spend campaign money buying tickets for their supporters, providing transportation to the Straw Poll as well as food and entertainment on the site. The Straw Poll’s cancellation has damped some criticism, but others still complain about Iowa’s role as the lead-off state in the presidential selection process. Branstad said there will always be “naysayers” who are “jealous” of Iowa.
“Our interest has been to have the first real test of candidates facing real voters be the Iowa Precint Caucuses followed by the New Hampshire Primary,” Branstad said. “And we’ve had for the last 20-30 years a good relationship with the State of New Hampshire to keep the Iowa Caucuses first and the New Hampshire Primary first. We want to keep it that way.”
On another campaign topic — Governor Branstad plans to take his concerns about the upcoming debates among Republican presidential candidates to the chairman of the Republican National Committee.
“I intend to talk to Reince Priebus about it because I think it’s important to have an open process and one that is fair to all participants,” Branstad said.
The format for this summer’s debates on FOX News and CNN will bring just 10 candidates on stage — the ones who have the highest standing in national polls.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Branstad said. “If there’s this many candidates, why not have two panels and let them randomly select who’s on each panel? So then the public gets to see all the candidates and you don’t limit it by who’s got the most money and that sort of thing.”
A group of prominent New Hampshire Republicans released a letter last week, making the same argument. Branstad said he’ll call FOX News chairman and CEO Roger Ailes to make the case for giving all the GOP candidates a place on the debate stage. Back in 1990, Ailes was in charge of the campaign ads Branstad ran in his re-election campaign.
AUDIO of Branstad’s weekly news conference, during which he discussed these issues