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.