The GOP's 2016 long-shot candidates saw their chances grow even slimmer this week, thanks to a pair of decisions that further locked them out of the party spotlight.
Between the death of the Iowa Straw Poll and a new, two-tiered debate system, Republican candidates who are struggling to break into the top tier of presidential hopefuls (such as Carly Fiorina or Rick Santorum) lost two key opportunities to build early momentum—and take aim at the contest's front-runners—before voters started to cast primary ballots.
On Friday morning, the Iowa Republican Party's state central committee voted unanimously to cancel this year's straw poll after the party struggled to secure commitments from candidates to attend. Iowa's GOP enjoyed the attention and fundraising opportunities it provided, but national party elites saw a contest that strengthened their weaker candidates and weakened their stronger ones—and now it's gone.
That means the long shots have lost a launching pad to the front of the pack. Strong finishes at the straw poll, an event that has become a staple on the presidential campaign trail and is well-attended by the state's most dedicated activists, have helped nonestablishment candidates make a splash in past primary races. Michele Bachmann's first-place finish in the 2011 straw poll boosted her exposure, however briefly, in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. Conversely, a disappointing third-place finish contributed to Tim Pawlenty's decision to drop out of the race.