NEW YORK, NY (FOX News) – Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee says he will not participate in this summer’s Iowa straw poll, becoming the latest 2016 contender to back away from the Hawkeye State tradition.
“I have decided to forego taking part in the Iowa straw poll — or any other straw poll — and will instead focus our campaign’s attention and resources on the Iowa caucuses,” the former Arkansas governor wrote in in an editorial published Thursday in the Des Moines Register.
Earlier this month, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was the first to announce he would not participate in the Aug. 8 straw poll and instead would attend the Red State Gathering of conservatives in Atlanta.
The non-binding Iowa straw poll — a unique spectacle of American politics where candidates often bus in supporters — increasingly has come under criticism from Republicans, as other declared and potential GOP candidates also have not publicly committed to participating.
Huckabee’s position is a turnaround from the 2008 election. Prior to winning the Iowa caucuses in that race, the bass-playing Huckabee finished second at the straw poll in the summer of 2007, an unexpected outcome that helped fuel his “Huckaboom” rise and eventual victory in the first-in-the-nation contest.
But eight years later, Huckabee argues that investing in the Iowa straw poll, a major fundraising event for the state Republican Party, would burn valuable campaign resources.
“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.
Huckabee’s reference to “billionaire-backed establishment candidates” appears to be a shot at Bush.
On Tuesday, Huckabee told Fox News that he was “still evaluating” whether to compete in the straw poll.
During the Iowa GOP’s Lincoln dinner last Saturday, none of the 11 GOP contenders who spoke would confirm that they would attend the straw poll.
“We all know that there isn’t a great deal of relevancy in the poll,” Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, a Republican, told reporters on Monday.
“It is just a particular event that is not scientific,” Branstad said, according to the Register. “What really counts is the actual vote taken at the precinct caucuses in February, and that is the first real test for a presidential candidate.”