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Huckabee to Skip Iowa Straw Poll, Focus on Caucuses

Huckabee to Skip Iowa Straw Poll, Focus on Caucuses
(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)

By    |   Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:44 AM

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who placed second in the Iowa Straw Poll in 2007, will not be in this year's event, saying Thursday that his goal is "not to win a straw poll" but "to win the caucuses."

And he's concerned the event could harm the efforts of less well-funded conservative candidates.

"I came in second, and it was a wonderful thing [as] it helped propel us," Huckabee, who has declared his candidacy for the 2016 GOP nomination, told Fox News' "Fox & Friends" program Thursday.

He said that he's been in four straw polls either as a candidate, an activist for a candidate, or as an observer for the media, and described the experience as "great political theater."

"But every candidate ultimately has to decide how to use resources and the goal is not to win a straw poll which doesn't mean anything," the former governor said. "Straw poll winners don't win the caucuses, [and] my goal is to win the caucuses. My goal is to put our efforts to that."

There have been some candidates who won the straw poll go on to win the important Iowa caucuses, said Huckabee, such as eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney. But Huckabee pointed out that while he came in second in that year's straw poll, he ended up winning the Iowa caucuses "with the largest margin a Republican had ever won the caucuses."

Four years ago, then-Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann won the straw poll and came in sixth place in Iowa and eventually dropped out of the primary race.

"It is not a good indicator, but it can be an eliminator," said Huckabee. "That's why I think, you know, having been through this process before, it's given me a little bit more reflection about what do we need to do to win the caucuses and then, frankly, go on to win a nomination.

"My goal is not to win a straw poll that doesn't mean something — it's to win the election that means everything."

In an opinion piece for The Des Moines Register on Thursday, Huckabee said it's important for Republicans to remember the mistakes from the last few election cycles, "in which conservatives were divided and opened a path for a more moderate establishment candidate to ultimately win the nomination, only to lose to [President Barack] Obama."

"It's clear that pitting conservative candidates with limited resources against each other in a non-binding and expensive summer straw poll battle, while allowing billionaire-backed establishment candidates to sit out, will only wound and weaken the conservative candidates who best represent conservative and hard-working Iowans," he wrote. 

He also said the decision to stay out was reached after discussing the matter with Iowa supporters and volunteers.

Real estate mogul Donald Trump, who has not officially declared his candidacy, is the only person to officially agree to take part in the straw poll, reports Politico. The event is planned to be held on Aug. 8, two days after the first GOP debate in Cleveland on Aug. 6 and during the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, set for Aug. 6-9.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said last week that he is also passing up the straw poll in favor of attending the RedState Gathering in Atlanta. He was the first to officially decline the straw poll, which has come under attack as being an ineffective gauge for picking presidential candidates.

Huckabee also criticized Democratic powerhouse Hillary Clinton on the Fox program Thursday, saying she's ahead because of her celebrity and not her accomplishments.

"It’s one thing for her to be the known quantity and, you know, the Democrat that is the inevitable," he said. "But at some point, she’s got to come out from under the bed where she’s been hiding and curling up in a fetal position, afraid to face the press and really hard questions."

Huckabee also discussed fellow candidate Sen. Rand Paul's hourslong speech against extensions to the Patriot Act, and said that he favors revising the act but not immediately restoring it.

He thinks Paul made valid points, as "we are not a nation of good intentions."

Huckabee said he doesn't doubt the National Security Agency's best intentions and good work, but "the biggest question is this: does the Constitution allow the government to read the mail and to listen to the phone calls, even to collect them, without a warrant or probable cause? ... It just doesn't."

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Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who placed second in the Iowa Straw Poll in 2007, will not be in this year's event, saying Thursday that his goal is "not to win a straw poll" but "to win the caucuses."
mike huckabee, iowa, straw poll, caucuses
Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:44 AM
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