The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

The Iowa GOP’s straw poll just lost another contender

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee is ending his six-year run as a TV host on Fox News, a decision that will fuel speculation about the Republican’s plans for another White House bid. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee first made presidential waves at the Iowa Straw Poll eight years ago. This year, he's skipping it entirely.

The Arkansas Republican, who came in second in the Iowa Straw Poll in 2007 and went on to win the Iowa caucuses in 2008, announced in the Des Moines Register that he would not be in attendance this year. While he acknowledged that the straw poll was his “first big break on our way to winning the Iowa caucuses” the last time her ran for president, he also explicitly knocked the costs associated with participating in the cattle call.

“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,” he wrote, becoming the second major candidate to announce he will not participate in the event this year.

Of course, his odds this year were looking just a bit longer -- a recent poll of Iowa Republicans found the former Arkansas governor in a statistical tie with three other candidates, trailing frontrunner Scott Walker by double digits.

The Iowa GOP has gone to great lengths to make changes to the high-profile event, which has faced growing scrutiny from campaigns and reporters alike over the high costs of participating. (The Washington Post wrote about the many reforms detailed by the state party earlier this month.)

[Behind the new Iowa GOP push to save the straw poll.]

But candidates have been slow to commit. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush, an early establishment favorite, announced through his campaign-in-waiting last week that he would skip the event in favor of campaigning elsewhere in the state.

Bush's decision -- while notable -- was not a huge shock, given the tough odds he faces in the early-voting state. Huckabee's is more of a surprise

The only potential White House contender to commit to competing in the Aug. 8 straw poll so far: real estate mogul Donald Trump.