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Jeb Bush Breaks Family Tradition by Skipping Iowa Straw Vote

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Saturday, 16 May 2015 06:29 PM Current | Bio | Archive

Jeb Bush's announcement on Tuesday that he will skip the "straw vote" of presidential hopefuls hosted by Iowa Republicans surprised many observers because the event has been remarkably successful for his family.

His father George H.W. Bush won the first-ever straw vote in the fall of 1979 and his victory established him as the leading Republican alternative to front-runner Ronald Reagan. The next year, Bush won the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses by narrowly defeating Reagan in a dramatic upset.

In 1999, Texas Gov. George W. Bush was an easy winner in both the straw vote and the Iowa caucuses. In both contests, he handily topped publisher Steve Forbes, who soon exited the 2000 GOP presidential contest.

The straw vote this year will be held on August 8 in Boone, Iowa, rather than in the traditional Ames locale. Supporters of former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush explained that he won't compete there and instead will be attending the conservative "RedState" conclave in Georgia from August 6 to 9, which conflicts with the straw vote.

Bush backers did stress that their man will compete in the Iowa caucuses next year and that he will be in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday for the state party's Lincoln Day dinner with at least 10 presidential prospects.

But some Iowa Republicans were upset by his no-show announcement, to say the least.

"We hope Governor Bush rethinks his decision and realizes that grassroots will only grow in Iowa if he waters them," State Party Chairman Jeff Kaufmann tweeted. "We don't buy this excuse and neither will Iowans."

Kim Schmett, former Polk County (Des Moines) GOP chairman, told Newsmax: "It's one of the worst decisions he could have made. He's sending a message to Iowa Republicans that he doesn't care about them."

Schmett and his wife Connie will be involved in the Iowa presidential campaign of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. He emphasized that "Jeb Bush is overlooking the fact that he doesn't need to win the straw vote, just demonstrate some viability. This would not be difficult with as many as a dozen Republicans competing in the straw vote in August."

Recalling the successes of Bush's father and brother in past straw votes, Schmett added: "If he can't be competitive here, where can he be?"

But Des Moines attorney Ralph Brown, who helped run George H.W. Bush's 1980 effort in Iowa, disagreed.

"I have no qualms with Jeb Bush not playing this game,” Brown, a backer of the Floridian, told Newsmax. "I agree with [Iowa's Republican Gov.] Terry Branstad that the straw vote has outlived its usefulness. This is demonstrated by the [straw vote] victories of people who ended up not being factors in the eventual nomination fight."
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He specifically cited the narrow win of Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann over Texas Rep. Ron Paul in the 1999 straw vote.

Brown also stressed that "this isn't the same straw vote as when it started in 1979. Then it was run by the Iowa Newspaper Association and the party activists paid for their own tickets [to the event]. Candidates didn’t buy tickets in large numbers and bus supporters in, the way they have since the state Republican Party took over the event in 1987 and made it a fund-raising vehicle."

While in 1979 the elder Bush defeated Reagan among 1,454 participants in the straw vote, the event mushroomed to 3,843 participants after the party took it over in 1987. In the 1999 straw vote George W. Bush won, the event had swelled to 24,549 participants.

With candidates paying the entrance fee of backers and busing them in, Brown told us, "this really isn't representative anymore."

Another possible reason for Bush's decision to forego the straw vote may be, as Sioux City Republican leader Bill Keetell put it, "Iowans tend to have a strong liking for their fellow Midwesterners."

Keetell, who so far is neutral in the 2016 race, recalled the one year a Bush fared poorly in Iowa: 1987, when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush placed third in the straw vote and in the caucuses the following year. The winner was Kansas Sen. Bob Dole, with televangelist Pat Robertson placing second.

A just-completed Quinnipiac Poll showed that among likely Iowa Republican voters, Wisconsin's Walker led a dozen GOP hopefuls with 21 percent, with Bush placing 6th with 5 percent.


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John-Gizzi
Jeb Bush's announcement on Tuesday that he will skip the straw vote of presidential hopefuls hosted by Iowa Republicans surprised many observers because the event has been remarkably successful for his family. His father George H.W. Bush won the first-ever straw vote in...
jeb, bush, iowa, straw, vote
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2015-29-16
Saturday, 16 May 2015 06:29 PM
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