T-Paw, We Didn’t Know Ye

Yesterday, the nation waited breathlessly for the results from the Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa.

We wanted to know which of the host of candidates would receive the most votes from the tiny fraction of Iowans attending the event — many of whom were bussed there, fed, clad in t-shirts, entertained, and even had their entrance fee paid by one candidate or another.  The suspense was so great it took a herculean effort to go about our daily lives.  And then, this morning, we learned that Representative Michele Bachmann scored a victory for the ages by collecting 4,823 straw poll votes, barely edging out Representative Ron Paul, who tallied 4,671 votes.  Former Governor Tim Pawlenty finished third with 2,293 votes — and he found his performance so disappointing that he promptly dropped out the race, before most of us even had a chance to figure out who in the heck he was.

The endless drum-beating about the significance of the Iowa straw poll, with its paid admission, its miniscule sample of voters, and its wholly non-binding results, is so stunningly absurd that it somehow makes perverse sense that the results would convince a largely unknown candidate to leave the “race” for the Republican presidential nomination before the “race” has even begun.  It is hard to believe that a major party would use something as phony and contrived as the Iowa straw poll as part of its process of selecting a serious presidential candidate.  I think it makes Republicans look ridiculous.

Anyone who wonders why middle America thinks the national media and party establishments are out of touch need look no further than this weekend’s Iowa straw poll, which drew political journalists and party bigwigs like flies — but was ignored by everyone else.

Will Anyone Watch, And Does Anyone Care?

Tonight the eight declared Republican candidates for President will debate in Iowa.  The debate is nationally televised on Fox News.  Will anyone watch, and does anyone care?

The lead-up to the debate is filled with the kind of phony urgency that sets my teeth on edge.  The Reuters story, for example, notes that the debate is two days “before an Iowa straw poll that will test the strength of their campaigns” and breathlessly adds:  “With less than six months remaining before Iowa holds the first presidential nominating contest in 2012, time is running short for candidates to begin making up ground.”  So, let me get this straight:  the debate may affect the outcome of a non-binding “straw poll” being taken six months before delegates will be selected?  Could someone explain again why this debate is so crucial?

The constant, creeping advancement of the campaign season is always ludicrous, but this year it is offensive.  Our economy is in the dumper.  Our national credit rating just got cut.  We’re fighting in ill-defined conflicts across the globe.  Millions of Americans are out of work.  Our budget deficit is out of control.  In short, we’ve got lots of important stuff to worry about — much more important than whether Michele Bachmann’s showing makes her the presumed Iowa front-runner or whether Rick Santorum should throw in the towel.  At this point, I couldn’t care less.