Critics have increasingly called it a shakedown. Not only do campaigns buy up thousands of tickets for their supporters to attend the event, they bid thousands of dollars for prime spots to pitch tents near the voting area on the college campus…

“It’s a tedious effort. It costs a lot of money. It’s totally irrelevant at the end of the day. It used to be a test of organization,” said Ed Rollins, who managed Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann’s presidential campaign at the time she won the 2012 straw poll. “Today it’s a lot of effort and a lot of energy that really is not worth the effort.”…

Doug Gross, a leading Iowa Republican who chaired Romney’s 2008 Iowa campaign, said Romney’s strong opposition to any pathway to citizenship or tuition benefits for illegal immigrants hurt him in the general election four years later against Obama, partly due to his effort to appeal to Iowa conservatives at the straw poll.

The straw poll “forces them to deal with extremists and you can’t help but have some of that rub off on you,” Gross said. “That hurts our ability to nominate candidates who can win.”