Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush will not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll this summer, the first high-profile competitor in the GOP’s presidential race to signal he’ll skip the event. Bush’s staff confirms the former Florida governor will be in Atlanta for the annual “RedState Gathering” rather than in Iowa for the 2015 Straw Poll.
Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina senator who’s planning to enter the GOP presidential race soon, told Radio Iowa in March that he would skip the Straw Poll. Staffers for former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker all said their candidate hasn’t made a decision yet on the event.
State Senator David Johnson, a Republican from Ocheyedan, is hoping former Texas Governor Rick Perry runs for president again, but Johnson is not advising Perry to participate in the Straw Poll.
“The last Straw Poll I don’t think did anyone any good,” Johnson says.
A poor finish in the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll prompted former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty to drop out of the race, while Michele Bachman won the event, but wound up finishing last in the 2012 Iowa Caucuses a little less than six months later.
Ben Carson, the retired surgeon who entered the Republican presidential race last week, has fared well in early straw polls elsewhere. State Representative Rob Taylor, a Republican from West Des Moines who is co-chair of Carson’s Iowa campaign, says there’s been no decision yet from Carson about participating in the Iowa Straw Poll.
“We’ve got it on the agenda, but I don’t know at this point in time,” Taylor says. “If Dr. Carson’s the only one who shows up, that’d be a great political fundraiser, wouldn’t it?”
The event has been a major fundraiser for the Iowa Republican Party in some years. Jeb Bush’s father won the very first Iowa Straw Poll in 1979 and his brother won the 1999 Iowa Straw Poll. Jeff Kaufmann, the Iowa GOP’s current chairman, took to Twitter today to say he doesn’t buy Jeb Bush’s excuse for skipping the 2015 Straw Poll and “neither will Iowans.”
A spokeswoman for Texas Senator Ted Cruz says Cruz “plans to participate” but will review changes the party has made before making a “firm commitment” to show up for the Straw Poll on Saturday, August 8 in Boone, Iowa.
In 2007 Arizona Senator John McCain and former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani both announced they would not participate in that year’s Iowa Straw Poll. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won the event, but a strong second-place showing by Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee hinted at Huckabee’s growing popularity among Iowa activists.
Alice Stewart, communications director for Huckabee’s 2016 presidential campaign, issued a written statement this afternoon when asked if Huckabee would participate in the 2015 Iowa Straw Poll.
“Governor Huckabee looks forward to continue campaigning hard across Iowa,” Stewart said. “…Ultimately the Governor will do what puts him in the strongest position with voters to do well in the Iowa Caucus next year.”
Carly Fiorina, like Huckabee, formally entered the race last week. Fiorina’s spokeswoman, Anna Epstein, issued the following statement when asked about Fiorina’s decision on Straw Poll participation: “Carly is enjoying traveling the state and talking with Iowa voters.”
A spokesman for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker indicated it was too early for Walker to announce his intentions regarding the Straw Poll.
“Governor Walker will not announce a decision about a potential presidential candidacy until the Wisconsin state budget is completed in June and so the question of his participation in the RPI straw poll is premature,” Erin Woolson, a spokesman affiliated with Walker’s PAC, said in a written statement.