Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush won’t be competing in the Iowa straw poll, according to multiple reports, and other Republicans are also considering skipping the event.
The August poll, part carnival, part pulse-taking of Republicans who will be the nation’s first caucus-goers a few momths later, is considered somewhat of a test of early political strength. Its clout was diluted in 2011, when Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., won the event but went nowhere as a presidential candidate.
Iowa Republicans vowed this year’s poll would be credible. Last week, organizers said they’d provide free tents and other amenities. One criticism over the years has been that wealthier candidates were able to make a splashy showing.
None of that apparently is luring Bush. The Des Moines Register reported that he plans to attend a competing event, the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, which is expected to attract other candidates.
“We hope Governor Bush rethinks his decision and realizes that grass roots will only grow in Iowa if he waters them,” Iowa Republican Chairman Jeff Kaufmann told the Register.
Bush’s brother, George W. Bush, won the straw poll in 1999, and their father, George H.W. Bush, won the 1979 event. Jeb Bush, who has not formally declared his candidacy, has struggled so far to gain traction in Iowa. A Quinnipiac poll in late April and early May found him in seventh place.