Originally created 08/17/99

Buying votes in Iowa

Now we know why the GOP presidential straw poll in Ames, Iowa, Saturday was "important." It's because the TV pundits said it was.

Shunting aside criticism that the straw poll is the biggest non-event in presidential politicking, one commentator huffed -- as others nodded in accord -- that "There wouldn't be 600 media people here if it wasn't important."

Sorry, but if 600 media people show up, that doesn't make an event "important." Maybe we're old fashioned, but we still believe newspeople are supposed to report the news, not make it.

Besides, the straw poll is not a test of who can win the most votes. It's about who can raise the most money and buy the most votes.

Each straw-voter must put up at least $25 to participate which in most cases was paid for by the candidates, as well as participants' travel and other expenses.

In an earlier era, bribing voters was considered corrupting -- and resulted in reforms that dismantled big city "machines" and prosecuted their leaders.

But at least the straw poll had one salutary effect. After 6 1/2 long years of non-stop campaigning, it finally woke Lamar Alexander up to the hard fact he'll never make it to the White House.

Several other second-tier candidates should realize they're history, too; but they're still enamored of the notion that if they can just debate the frontrunners in a high-profile TV forum, the voters will "see the light" and rush to their candidacy like bears to honey.

Sorry, guys. Not in this lifetime.

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