Say What?! The Straw Poll Explained

Communications director for the Iowa Democrats, Carrie Giddins, calls the Iowa straw poll "more an artificial weeding of the caucus field than it is a barometer of where people stand. Almost like a fifth grade popularity contest of who can buy the most tickets, who can buy the most buses and who can feed the most people."

With nominating contests in states like South Carolina, Florida and California clawing their way up the 2008 calendar, the heat is on for states like Iowa and New Hampshire to assert the power of their storied presence in the political process.

If Giuliani or McCain win the Iowa caucus, it will defy precedent -- no candidate in history has been a no-show at the straw poll but won the January caucus.

The straw poll hasn't always been an accurate bellwether of the party nomination. George H.W. Bush won the first Iowa straw poll in 1979, though Ronald Reagan went on to win the nomination and presidency in 1980; Pat Robertson was the 1987 Iowa straw poll winner though George H.W. Bush won the party nomination and the presidency in 1988.

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