The Ames Straw Poll Has Limited Predictive Value

Think of the Ames Straw Poll as the political equivalent of preseason football.

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Romney's decision to skip the event does make some sense. If he doesn't place highly, his absence from the event makes a perfect excuse. If he still polls well, then his campaign can argue that he has wide appeal, even though he didn't put the time and money into the event that his competitors did.

Yet according to Peter Roff, Republican strategist and contributing editor to U.S. News and World Report, this strategy isn't a winning one either. "You lose if you show up and don't meet expectations. You lose if you don't show up—are you afraid of big things already? The winners are the people who outperform expectations." Sefl agrees: "If you are already shying away from big scale events, voters will question you." Avoiding Ames also takes you out of the general conversation fueled by 24-hour-news-cable. As GOP strategist and U.S. News and World Report contributor Doug Heye points out, this happened to Mayor Rudy Giuliani in 2007 when he ignored Iowa to focus on other states.

Texas Gov.Rick Perry is also skipping Ames. But he will not miss out on the headlines, as he plans to formally announce his entry into the race in South Carolina before heading off to New Hampshire. He will only head to Iowa Sunday, after the straw poll, to speak at a Republican Party fundraiser where he will be joined by Rep. Michele Bachmann (who also is vying for the Christian conservative vote). Says Roff, "Rick Perry renders the Ames Straw Poll irrelevant. The big story is then Perry."

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  • Corrected on 08/15/11: An earlier version of this article misspelled the first name of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.