Iowa conservative group ready to step in if straw poll scrapped

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“I'm not sure what the future of the straw poll is, but if the straw poll doesn't take place, this event is going to be poised to be a magnet for candidates and for the base to really get a look at who they want to support in the caucus,” Vander Plaats said.

Former Iowa GOP executive director Chuck Laudner suggested to Radio Iowa that The Family Leader conference would conduct its own straw poll.

The Family Leader's 2013 summit is scheduled in the same city – Ames – and on the same weekend – the second in August – that the straw poll has traditionally been held the year before the Iowa GOP presidential caucuses.

State party officials have suggested that the straw poll be abandoned. 

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said last fall that the straw poll had “outlived its usefulness” and that “its days are over.”

The event has come under heavy criticism in recent years. The top two finishers in 2012 were Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Ron Paul (R-Texas), who flamed out of the presidential race shortly afterwards. 

Increasingly, front-runners like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012 are skipping the event.