I think this paragraph from the Post story sums up the importance of this event:
The quadrennial Ames straw poll has long marked a moment of transition in the Republican presidential race, but its significance this year was diminished by the decisions of McCain and Giuliani not to compete actively for the support of party activists and by Thompson's decision to delay his possible entry until September.
And let's not forget who's won this silly thing in the past:
1979 George Bush (the first one)
1987 Pat Robertson
1995 Bob Dole
Then again I have to realize that this is the dog days of August and there is little if any news so no wonder this gets so much coverage.