|Tim Pawlenty in Ames, Iowa|
As the presidential elections are again looming, Iowa, located in the American heartland and ranked the 30th state in the U.S with a population of just over three million,( i.e. less than 1 % of the U.S. population), takes on its role as kingmaker of the U.S. presidential elections. But is this role justified or even accurate? Last weekend’s example of its outsized influence was on display with the Ames Straw Poll, which is taken by the Republican Iowans every presidential election since 1979. In this year’s straw poll an impressive 16,892 (!) mostly conservative Republican voters cast their votes, many of whom were bused in and received free tickets and food from the candidates. Winner was ....
the Tea Party’s favorite, Michelle Bachmann with 4,823 votes (28.5 percent of the poll, and 0.0015 percent of the U.S. population) , followed by Libertarian Ron Paul with 4,671 votes ( resp. 27.65 percent and 0.0014 percent), and Tim Pawlenty, the former governor of Minnesota, was third with 2,293 votes (resp. 13.5 percent and 0.0007 percent). For Tim Pawlenty this result was apparently so disappointing that he decided to withdraw his bid for the Republican nomination, more than six months before the start of the Republican primaries. Was it a wise decision to let 0.0007 percent of the U.S. population dictate your aspirations for the U.S. presidency?
In the five times that the Ames straw poll was held, only two winners went on to be the winner of the Republican primaries, one of which became President of the United States (i.e.George W. Bush in 1999) So, maybe Pawlenty should have thought this over a bit more. He clearly seems to value the importance of the Ames straw poll.
On the same date, August 14, in a different state, South Carolina, another governor, Rick Perry from Texas found the Ames straw poll unimportant enough to skip it while using the media’s attention for Republican presidential politics to announce his presidential candidacy. Time will tell who’s right: Pawlenty in viewing the Ames straw poll as an important indicator of the candidates’ strength – in that case we’ll see Mrs. Bachman back in the limelight the coming year -, or Governor Perry who seems to be steaming ahead to replace Mitt Romney as the frontrunner? (By the way: let’s not forget Mr. Romney received a whopping 567 votes (3 percent) but did not bother campaigning in Iowa.)