Iowa Republican Party officials say two of the leading candidates for the GOP’s 2008 presidential nomination have made a big mistake in deciding not to participate in the party’s Straw Poll in Ames on August 11.
Rudy Giuliani’s campaign announced late Wednesday morning that Giuliani will not participate "in a financial way" in any straw polls this campaign season and that includes the big Iowa Republican Party event in Ames this August. A few hours later, John McCain’s campaign announced that without Giuliani in the mix, the results of the Straw Poll will not be a "meaningful test" of organizational strength in Iowa, so McCain will not participate in the Sraw Poll either.
Chuck Laudner, the executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa, spoke with Radio Iowa by telephone late Wednesday afternoon. "This event helps us pay for Caucus Night and all those activities, plus it helps us fund our state house and senate races," Laudner said. "…It’s a kick in the shins, or a little higher, right to the Iowa Republican Party."
According to Laudner, Giuliani and McCain are missing an opportunity to speak directly to about one-third of the Iowa Republicans who are likely Caucus-goers, as well as Republicans across the country who’d tune in to the event. "They must not have felt that their chances were very good at win, place or show," Laudner said.
In May, Laudner predicted over 50,000 Republicans would attend the Straw Poll and he’s sticking with that estimate because he contends the event isn’t just about the Straw Poll balloting, it’s about all the related activities like the barbeques, the concerts, the star-gazing and the networking with other Republicans.
"If a show gets rained out at the Fair, you still go the Fair to do all the other things," Laudner said.
According to Laudner, former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle "didn’t make any friends" by referring to the Straw Poll as a "circus" and a "side show" that may detract from the Caucuses themselves.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his backers are ridiculing rivals Giuliani and McCain for deciding to skip competing in the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll. Doug Gross is Romney’s Iowa campaign chair: "I frankly see the McCain/Giuliani decision as an indication that in the first round of this fight we won and they decided not to even fight."
In 1999, McCain did not compete in the Straw Poll and dismissed it as a "sham" because the candidates purchase tickets for their backers so they can cast Straw Poll votes. Earlier this spring, Romney said if the Straw Poll is a circus, then he wants to be "the ringmaster."
Read more about the controversy over on The Blog.