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Jonathan Bernstein

Republicans Wanted a World With No Straw Poll, and They Got Trump

Eliminating a party ritual, even a silly one, has consequences.

It worked for Michele Bachmann….

It worked for Michele Bachmann….

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

With August ending, it’s worth remembering that we are not, as we once would have expected, a year away from the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa. Nor are we looking back three years to the 2015 Ames Straw Poll. That’s because Republicans foolishly ended that event in 2015. And that might just be why Donald Trump won the nomination in 2016.

The straw poll was, to be sure, a ridiculous event. Candidates basically paid for votes. As many over the years noted, the straw poll didn’t do a very good job of predicting either the winner of the Iowa caucuses or the eventual nominee — as the final caucus winner, Michelle Bachmann in 2013, could tell us.