The Iowa Straw Poll is an unofficial kick-off to the Republican Party’s search for presidential candidates, and has helped the GOP’s White House Wannabes test the waters in years preceding the actual primary since 1979.
But Mike Huckabee, who officially announced his 2016 campaign just two weeks ago, won’t be there. And, he insists in a May 21 op/ed to The Des Moines Register, his decision is based on those Apple Pie & Jesus principles that form the holy foundation of his conservative campaign.
Conservative and hard-working Iowans want a strong and principled conservative Republican nominee for president who represents their values. 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.
But let’s be serious about this. He has to be making up an excuse, especially due to the fact that this same Straw Poll was the Debutante “Sweet 16” Party of his last campaign. In 2007, the Huckster took second place in the straw poll, and went on to win the official Iowa caucus – the first in the primary race – just five months later in January 2008. In effect, then, it was this same Iowa Straw Poll that made Huckabee a contender. So why is he bailing out this time around?
The fact that his campaign is doing so poorly so soon seems to be a better reason. In an average of four recent polls of Republican voters in Iowa, Huckabee is tied for fourth place. He and Rand Paul each take a mere 9.5 percent, trailing the double-digit dudes of Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, and Jeb Bush, respectively.
Then there’s the cost. While Iowa’s Republican Party says it might make changes this year, candidates had to bid for booth space in previous Straw Polls, costing a minimum of $10,000. Add in the costs of campaigning, advertising, and busing in supporters to attend the ticketed event, and it can add up, costing “hundreds of thousands of dollars at the straw poll as a sort of dry run for the caucuses,” The Des Moines Register says.
And that same cost seems to be what brought down Huckabee’s 2008 campaign. He spent a lot in Iowa for the ’07 Straw Poll, which helped him win the official Iowa primary a few months later – but that left him dry. His campaign had little to spend for Super Tuesday, leaving Huckabee to ask his staff to work for free. Just two months later, he dropped out.
Fast-forward to his latest campaign, and it seems that Huckabee will be in the same financial circumstances, if not worse. He’ll be hard-pressed to retain his ‘08 donors, Open Secrets reports, and not that they gave him much then to begin with. Non-supporters like Club for Growth are already running expensive attack ads against him, too.
Add in the fact that the top dogs from his last campaign – even its director – aren’t supporting Huckabee for ’16, and it seems quite apparent that his decision to stay out of this year’s Straw Poll isn’t because it will “weaken conservative candidates,” as he claims in today’s op/ed, and not because it will “further empower the Washington ruling class,” either.
Huckabee’s staying out of the Iowa Straw Poll simply because he doesn’t have enough money to pull him out of his weak, tied-for-fourth start in that state. And, as everyone should know by now, money is what Republican presidential candidates are all about.
Featured image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr