Wednesday, June 06, 2007


In the comments to my previous post, Kathy asked me what I think about Rudy Giuliani and John McCain's decision to skip the August straw poll in Ames, Iowa.

I can only assume they're bailing because they know Romney can buy more votes than they can, so he's guaranteed to win. They're both out now, so the straw poll is rendered meaningless.

Back in April, Hotline's blog discussed the process of vote-buying as it was then playing out in South Carolina and was likely to play out in Ames:

Salon's Republican chronicler, Michael Scherer, dug in to several South Carolina county Republican conventions, and concluded, in an article about dirty politicking in the state, that, yes, Gov. Mitt Romney's South Carolina field operation is probably paying for delegates to state conventions in the hope that said generosity (and a healthy dollop of Mitt Love, Mitt appearances, and Mitt mailings, ) would help Romney win the convention straw polls.

...In the past, Romney aides, speaking on background, have acknowledged to the Hotline that they've engineered the purchase of tickets for delegates. Proudly, even.

...In Iowa, the biggest event of the year requires candidates to pay for delegates to attend, to pick up their transportation costs to Ames, and to bribe them with food, drink and merriment.

The straw poll victories do
not demonstrate grassroots support, if grassroots is defined as "natural," or endemic to a certain population of Republicans. One cannot artificially produce a straw poll victory and then claim that one's popularity is spreading like a funny joke. It's kind of like a movie studio paying for theatre-goers to show up at a new movie, however thumbs-uppy that new movie might be.

What a horrible system we have. So much money is raised, with all the corruption that entails -- and then the press essentially crowns one candidate the nominee on the basis of victories in one small lily-white Northeastern state and one somewhat larger lily-white Midwestern state. And an awful lot of the press would be half-ready to declare a winner (or at least declare the existence of "the Big Mo") even before that, solely on the basis of the freaking Ames straw poll.

If we're going to overstate the importance of these small, localized contests, why not get rid of all the other primaries and caucuses and just let Iowa and New Hampshire -- or just Iowa, or just Ames -- pick the damn nominees? The press is going to declare anyone who loses the two states to be dead in the water, so why the hell do we even bother with Super Tuesday and all the rest?

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