The Iowa straw poll – a Republican presidential politics staple since 1979 – is struggling to stay credible as two big-name dropouts fuel speculation the controversial event, this year set for Aug. 8, may be doomed.
The Hill reports
Jeb Bush will spend the second weekend in August in Georgia at a gathering hosted by blogger and Red State founder Erick Erickson; also attending will be Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, businesswoman Carly Fiorina, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
And last week, GOP presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee said he'd be skipping the Ames, Iowa event too, writing in the Des Moines Register:
"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."
The Hill reports only GOP declared contenders Ben Carson and Donald Trump have said they'll participate: representatives for Kentucky Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz said they're undecided and a spokesperson for Fiorina was noncommittal.
Rubio’s campaign didn’t respond to requests for comment, The Hill reports.
"They need at least six candidates, because it’s not going to work with just two or three,” former Iowa Republican Party political director Craig Robinson told The Hill.
"And they really need to get Scott Walker. He’s at the top of the polls in Iowa and nationally. If they can get him to commit, a lot of things will fall into place, and some of the other candidates might worry that they’ll be damaged by skipping."
A spokesperson for Walker’s political team told The Hill they’ll make the decision if the governor decides to run for president, which he's expected to do next month.
"The straw poll is toast," Steffen Schmidt, a professor of political science at Iowa State University bluntly declares, according to The Hill. "The brand is dead."
The poll has traditionally been held at Iowa State University, in Ames, the August before the Iowa caucuses, but after controversy over high prices charged by the school in 2011, a bidding process was begun this year and Boone, Ia., won out, Politico notes.
Critics complain the straw poll, however, can give long shots an artificial boost; in 2011, then-Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won though her campaign crumbled soon after, Politico notes.
"The mistake the Iowa Republican Party made is that they haven’t done anything to entice frontrunners to show them how they could benefit from this," Robinson tells The Hill.
Former Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn says, however, the event still has "clear value."
"It’s way too early to administer last rites to the Iowa straw poll," he tells The Hill.
"There’s still no other gathering in Iowa or any early states where candidates will have the opportunity to get in front of upwards of 15,000 or 20,000 of the most active Republicans in the state."
"In 2007, [Huckabee] used the straw poll to become the movement conservative and effectively knocked out his competition," Strawn adds. "This year, someone else could be catapulted into that role."
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