Mitt Romney will not take part in the upcoming Iowa Straw Poll, his campaign announced Thursday—a sign that the former Massachusetts governor might not compete as intensely in the state as he did four years ago.
Romney's campaign tried to soften the blow, pointing out that the candidate would also skip similar straw polls in Florida and Michigan. But the Iowa snub is certain to get more attention, given it's long been rumored Romney would focus his campaign efforts on other key primary states such as New Hampshire, which borders on Romney's home state.
"We respect the straw poll process," Matt Rhoades, Romney's campaign manager, said in a statement to reporters. "In the last presidential campaign, we were both strengthened as an organization and learned some important lessons by participating in them. This time we will focus our energies and resources on winning primaries and caucuses."
Romney aides insisted the governor would still campaign in Iowa--as of now, he is still expected to attend a 2012 GOP debate sponsored by Fox News in Ames on Aug. 11. But the straw poll has long been considered a necessary event for any Republican candidate aiming to court Iowa voters ahead of the state's first-in-the-nation caucuses.
Yet a big straw poll presence didn't help Romney four years ago. In 2007, the ex-governor's campaign spent more than $1 million on the poll--setting up a campaign area that included a rock wall, a massive campaign stage and free barbecue for supporters. He won, but rival Mike Huckabee, who spent far less, got more attention for his second place finish and went on to win the 2008 Iowa caucus.
While Huckabee opted against a 2012 run, Romney still faces many of the same political problems he did four years ago, including a social conservative voting bloc in the state skeptical of the moderate views on abortion and other issues that he expressed in the past. But Romney is not the only one who appears ready to downplay the state. Earlier this week, Jon Huntsman confirmed he was unlikely to compete in Iowa.
With Romney and Huntsman out, that would seem to provide a major opening for Tim Pawlenty or Michele Bachmann--or perhaps even Sarah Palin--in the state. But the absence of two leading GOP contenders is bad news for Iowa, as it fights to retain its influence in the upcoming 2012 race.
(Photo of Romney: Carlos Osorio/AP)
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