The Ames Straw Poll can be hugely influential for candidates, and can make or break a presidential hopefulâ€™s campaign. But when it comes to predicting a winner for the Iowa caucuses, the straw pollâ€™s influence is minimal at best.
With Michele Bachmannâ€™s poor showing Tuesday evening in the caucuses, the straw pollâ€™s predictive power is the same as a quarter. Heads, and Ames spits out a caucus winner. Tails, a victory at Ames is a distant memory.
Of the six Ames straw poll winners since 1979 — the poll is conducted every presidential cycle in which there is not a Republican incumbent — three have gone on to win the Iowa caucuses.
Bachmann won with 4,823 votes in August. As of press time Tuesday she had yet to win a single county, and was projected to come in sixth place, ahead of only Jon Huntsman, who did not campaign in the Hawkeye state.
In 1979 George H. W. Bush scored a victory in both the straw poll and the caucuses, though he went on to lose the nomination to Ronald Reagan. Bob Dole pulled off the same feat in 1995. In 1987, he won the caucuses, though he lost in the straw poll to Pat Robertson.
In 2000, George W. Bush cleaned up in the Hawkeye State, winning both contests.
The straw poll was a significant factor in Romneyâ€™s downfall in 2008. After winning the straw poll in 2007, he headed into the caucuses with high expectations for his performance, only to come in second to Mike Huckabee. The loss was a blow that effectively shattered his campaign.
Bachmannâ€™s victory at the straw poll last August was all but eclipsed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s entry into the presidential race that same day. His announcement received the lionâ€™s share of media attention, rendering Bachmannâ€™s win nothing more than background noise.