Romney opts out of Iowa Straw Poll, casting its relevance- and future- into question

Republican front-runner Mitt Romney's decision to skip the Iowa Straw Poll, a fund-raising event held by the state Republican party every four years at Iowa State University in Ames- has at least badly crippled the event, and may eventually kill it.

Iowa Republicans are permitted to cast a ballot in the straw poll if they contribute $35. Candidates traditionally bus their supporters in from all over the state, paying their way in order to get the boost in publicity and momentum that comes from finishing first in the opening event of the campaign leading up to the first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses.

But with the front-runner sitting the straw poll out, it's doubtful whether its outcome will matter much. It remains to be seen how many of the other candidates will bother with the time and expense of an event which no longer has the potential to demonstrate an ability to compete with the leader.

The straw poll- which really proves more about the finances of the various campaigns and their organizational strength than about the popularity of the candidates- has been widely criticized for years. Romney's decision could be the beginning of the end for a custom which, while a great deal of fun and a good source of income for the state party, tends to be rather expensive and ultimately a great deal less significant than the time, energy and publicity involved really warrant.

HT: The Bean Walker