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Flashback: Pat Robertson Wins 1987 Iowa Straw Poll

August 11, 2007

Mitt Romney's looming landslide in today's Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa doesn't bode well for American democracy. After all, as Newsweek, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe and the New York Times report, Romney is spending millions of dollars on fun, food and frolic to win the hearts, minds and stomachs of Hawkeye State Republicans. Mercifully, history shows that the winner of the Iowa straw poll rarely ends up in the White House.
Just ask Pat Robertson.
In 1987, the Christian Coalition founder and CBN broadcaster brought the faithful to Ames to stun then Vice President George H.W. Bush. It was, however, Bob Dole who went on to win the 1988 Iowa caucus. Ultimately, Robertson was steamrolled by Bush the Elder on the latter's way to the GOP nomination and the Oval Office. Robertson did, of course, build a power base that made him a player to whom other GOP candidates (including today's like winner Mitt Romney) must now pay tribute.
Since 1979, only one Republican has captured the bellies of GOP straw poll attendees and moved on to win the presidency. In 1980, George H.W. Bush won the Iowa caucus after capturing the straw poll, only to see Ronald Reagan elected president. Phil Gramm, who claimed he was "conservative before it was cool," tied Bob Dole during the Ames poll, only to disappear into the ether during the GOP primaries. Sadly, only George W. Bush has been able to pull off the trifecta, winning the straw poll, the Iowa caucus and the White House.
So, with his major opponents skipping today's beauty contest, businessman Mitt Romney's multi-million dollar investment in vote buying will no doubt pay off. But despite deploying his fortune and the Romney Bland of Brothers to the cornfields of Iowa, Mitt Romney is assured of nothing in his quest for 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

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Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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