I don’t pretend to understand the internal politics behind the Iowa Ames straw poll, but I do understand the public perception.
Ames, like almost every “straw poll,” is about expectations and spin, trying to give momentum to candidates who need it, or crush candidate before they can gain momentum. A bad showing for Pawlenty will have the pundits announcing his political death, while a good showing will help him tremendously.
What is a “good” and what is a “bad” showing will be where the spin comes in.
The decision to leave Rick Perry and Sarah Palin out of the Ames straw poll renders the poll even less meaningful. Perry seems on a clear trajectory to enter the race, and Palin is less clear but still needs to be considered when weighing relative candidate strength.
Leaving Perry and Palin out turns the Ames poll into a no-win situation for those in the poll. Regardless of which candidate exceeds expectations, such a victory will be tempered by the absence of the two heavyweight contenders.
It’s hard now to see any candidate getting a big bounce, but certainly it is possible to do damage to Pawlenty and Bachmann if either of them does poorly.
Remind me again, why do we have “straw polls”?