And here's some good news coming out of Iowa.
Gov. Terry Branstad has suggested that the Ames Straw Poll, a political circus meant to test the relative strength of the Republican Presidential candidates' campaign teams, may have--in his words--"outlived its usefulness."
That's a pretty rugged understatement for a proud Republican. One of the most electable candidates of the bunch last year, Minnesota's Governor Tim Pawlenty, tossed away his bullhorn when he came in way back in the field, while Michele Bachmann, who never ever had a shot at becoming either the Republican candidate or President of these United States, walked off like Saint Joan. Amazingly, the Iowa Straw Poll dumped one of the only candidates who might have challenged Romney, in favor of someone who created her candidacy by swearing that the news media really ought to do a comprehensive story about the myriad members of Congress who were legitimately anti-American. Remember? I'm not making this up.
Bachmann's faithful know what she meant by that weird accusation, but at that moment most of the American electorate judged her certifiably loony; and, last summer, Bachmann won, narrowly defeating Ron Paul, who also electrified his disciples and almost no one else. Bachmann came out of the Ames poll at the top of the heap, and it took Republicans--and Romney--most of the summer to undo the bizarre Etch-a-Sketch images.
Iowa's only bona fide saint, Bob Vander Plaats, phoned her just before the caucuses and asked her to drop out for the good of the Christian soldiers, an act which in and of itself illustrated how immensely crazy things eventually became.
Branstad is right. The straw poll has devolved into a beauty contest run by the editors of old Mad magazine, candidates offering voters the kitchen sink to come out to Ames and write their names in the proper blanks. What's more, the whole process has been taken over by firebrand fundamentalists who make the rest of the voting public want to vote secular and quit organized religion all together.
I attended a county Republican meeting several years ago because I thought I was a Republican. I left, knowing I wasn't. But if I were, I'd be thankful for Branstad's good advice. I'm sure Chamber of Commerce folks in Ames would just as soon the whole batty bazaar continue forever, but I stand foursquare behind my gov: in 2012 the Ames Straw Poll was a disaster for the state, for the Republicans, and, more importantly, for the nation and the world.
Branstad's right: it certainly has outlived its usefulness.