Huckabee, Like Bush, Will Skip Iowa Straw Poll
GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee announced on Thursday he is skipping the Iowa straw poll, further complicating an already difficult situation for Republican Party officials in the Hawkeye State who saw former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush back out earlier this month.
In a Des Moines Register op-ed, the former Arkansas governor said he wants to dedicate his resources toward running a “well-funded, well-organized, and well-executed campaign” focused on winning the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses – not the straw poll.
Huckabee said the poll pits conservatives against each other, a dynamic that can lead to the nomination of a “more moderate establishment” candidate and thus lessening the party’s chances in the general election.
Iowa GOP co-chairman Cody Hoefert dismissed that argument in an interview with RealClearPolitics. “Obviously we believe that the Iowa straw poll is an important part of the process,” he said. “It’s an important platform by which candidates can address 20 percent of the caucus electorate in one location and make their case as to why they want to be the next president of the United States.”
Huckabee’s exit from the August straw poll, which raises funds for the state GOP, further complicates matters for Hoefert and fellow party officials. Last weekend, Hoefert and Co-chairman Jeff Kaufmann wrote personalized letters to the candidates in an effort to persuade them to participate. They also announced changes to the quadrennial event to make it more campaign-friendly.
Huckabee’s decision is a bigger blow to state party officials than Bush’s. In 2008, the former Fox News host came in second place in the straw poll and won the caucus. To many political observers, he is exactly the type of candidate who should be using the event to woo Iowa conservatives.
“Conservative and hard-working Iowans want a strong and principled conservative Republican nominee for president who represents their values,” Huckabee wrote. “I have concluded this year's Iowa straw poll will serve only to weaken conservative candidates and further empower the Washington ruling class and their hand-picked candidates.”
In forgoing the straw poll, Huckabee joins GOP establishment candidates who have backed out in the past. Mitt Romney decided to skip it in 2011, while John McCain and Rudy Giuliani did so in 2007.