Washington (CNN)Jeb Bush is skipping the widely watched Iowa straw poll in favor of a conservative forum in Georgia on the same day, a spokesman confirmed to CNN, sparking outrage from the Iowa Republican Party chairman.
Jeb Bush skipping Iowa straw poll
Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann tweeted his displeasure, noting the conflicting event -- the Red State gathering, a conservative confab scheduled for Aug. 6-9 -- runs for four days and other GOP presidential contenders will be attending both events.
"We hope Governor Bush rethinks his decision and realizes that grassroots will only grow in Iowa if he waters them," Kaufmann tweeted.
He added: "We don't buy this excuse and neither will Iowans."
The event, traditionally hosted in Ames, Iowa, will be hosted in Boone this year on Aug. 8, two days after the first scheduled Republican primary debate in Cleveland, Ohio.
The Des Moines Register first reported the news of Bush's decision to opt-out.
Iowa conservatives have long been wary of Bush, and the expected candidate's decision to skip the straw poll is a signal he and his advisers believe his attentions would be better spent elsewhere, like New Hampshire, where he'll encounter a friendlier electorate and can post a stronger showing with voters.
Those same grassroots conservatives that still have questions about Bush traditionally have an outsize influence at the Iowa straw poll, making it an even tougher audience for Bush. GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney also skipped the straw poll in 2011, avoiding what many believed would be an embarrassing finish for the establishment pick. That year the crown went to conservative Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota. Bachmann faired poorly during the actual primary and caucuses and dropped out of the presidential field early.
But Bush isn't tuning the state out. This weekend, Bush returns to Iowa for the second time this year for a couple of stops in Dubuque and Iowa City, as well as an appearance at the Iowa GOP Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines.
He said Tuesday night on Fox News' "Hannity" that he'll make the decision whether to run for president "over the next month," but he's widely expected to jump into the race.