Buying votes outright is generally frowned upon in American politics with one exception: the Republican Party's Iowa straw poll held in Ames, Iowa every pre-election year. Candidates who want to make a splash try to get their supporters to the straw poll and give them the money for the admission ticket (which gives them the right to vote). The candidate who gets the most supporters to the event (in chartered buses paid for by the candidate), gets tons of free publicity. The event also raises lots of money for the Iowa Republican Party.
The only problem with it is that the straw poll is not a very good predictor of anything. Now Gov. Terry Branstad (R-IA) wants to end it. Here are the results of all the straw polls.
|Year||Straw poll winner||Iowa caucus winner||GOP nominee||General election winner|
|1979||George H. W. Bush||George H. W. Bush||Ronald Reagan||Ronald Reagan|
|1987||Pat Robertson||Bob Dole||George H. W. Bush||George H. W. Bush|
|1995||Bob Dole, Phil Gramm (tie)||Bob Dole||Bob Dole||Bill Clinton|
|1999||George W. Bush||George W. Bush||George W. Bush||George W. Bush|
|2007||Mitt Romney||Mike Huckabee||John McCain||Barack Obama|
|2011||Michele Bachmann||Rick Santorum||Mitt Romney||Barack Obama|
Jim Messina, President Obama's campaign manager, gave an interview in which he explained how to win a presidential election. Here are his main points.
If President Obama appoints Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) to his cabinet, something Kerry wants more than anything in the whole world, it may cost the Democrats a Senate seat now and control of the Senate in 2014. The problem is ironic because until 2004, the governor of Massachusetts had the power to appoint people to vacant Senate seats. Thinking ahead to a possible Kerry presidency, the Democratic-controlled state legislature changed the law over then-governor Mitt Romney's veto to strip the power of appointment from the governor and require a special election to fill vacant Senate seats. If Kerry's seat becomes vacant, the Democrats don't have an obvious candidate to run against Scott Brown, who is the certain Republican candidate. Gov. Deval Patrick has ruled out a run and the other statewide elected officials are not all that well known. If a large number of the 10 representatives ran, there could be a very bloody primary. Nevertheless, Massachusetts is a very blue state, so even a bloodied winner might be able to hold off Brown in the special election. For the Democrats, the best solution is to convince Obama not to appoint Kerry to anything.