Former Iowa caucuses winner Mike Huckabee to skip straw poll

Updated 8:03 AM EDT, Thu May 21, 2015
(CNN) —  

Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, the 2008 Iowa caucuses winner, is running again for the GOP presidential nomination, but this time he’ll skip the state’s high profile straw poll.

Huckabee, who took second place in the 2007 survey, announced Thursday morning in a Des Moines Register op-ed that he won’t compete on the Iowa straw poll, instead saying that he wants to focus his resources on winning the state’s official caucus.

“I appreciate the Iowa GOP for recognizing the need for some reforms, but playing to win in the straw poll still requires a heavy concentration of staff and financial resources,” Huckabee wrote. “After consulting with many of our Iowa volunteers and supporters, as well as key activists whose opinion we value, I have decided to forgo taking part in the Iowa straw poll — or any other straw poll.”

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, a leading establishment contender, has also decided to skip the straw poll.

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The Iowa straw poll has been a poor predictor of the state’s caucuses winner – Rep. Michele Bachmann won in 2011, and Huckabee’s decision is the just the latest sign of the straw poll’s waning influence.

In 2008, Huckabee won the Iowa caucuses. Sen. John McCain, though, would end up claiming the nomination. Sen. Rick Santorum would go on to win the caucuses in 2012 only to lose the nomination to former Gov. Mitt Romney.

The straw poll though can be a boon for little-known candidates, and Huckabee’s second place finish in the 2007 straw poll gave him the jolt to kickstart his campaign and put him in the top-tier of candidates.

READ: Iowa shrugs off Clinton controversies

Huckabee could also be skipping the straw poll this year to keep pundits from reading into the results too much, especially if Iowa voters were to snub their 2008 pick – which could happen in a crowded field and also given that Huckabee has been out of the political ring since his 2008 loss to McCain.

Huckabee will likely compete for Iowa votes with Santorum, Iowa’s 2012 caucus winner who is expected to jump into the race next week, but also new blood like Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker who have gained traction among staunchly conservative and evangelical voters who dominate Iowa’s GOP caucus. Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, conservatives who both play well with evangelical voters, would also stand to benefit from Huckabee’s decision to opt out of the straw poll.

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The former Fox News host also said the straw poll would “weaken” conservative candidates competing in Iowa, who typically enter the straw poll, and instead “further empower the Washington ruling class and their hand-picked candidates.”

“History will repeat itself if we don’t learn from the past. 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,” Huckabee wrote in the Des Moines Register.