There are a number of factors that led to the cancellation of the Iowa Straw Poll last Friday. Ultimately, however, responsibility lies with the candidates themselves.
No one was surprised when former Florida Governor Jeb Bush decided to skip out on the iconic event since he has downplayed Iowa since launching his exploratory committee. The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee’s decision to skip out.
The 2008 Iowa Caucus winner’s last campaign was launched to prominence by a surprising 2nd place finish in the Straw Poll with few resources. It gave him the needed momentum to win the Iowa Caucus beating Mitt Romney and John McCain.
The 2015 Iowa Straw Poll, however, did not present such an opportunity. For Huckabee, it presented itself as a high-risk venture. He would have been expected at the very least to do well in the Straw Poll, if not win. Had he failed to, it would have presented a problem for his campaign.
Skipping the Iowa Straw Poll was the safe choice. The same can be said about Rick Santorum. The former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania, who won the 2012 Iowa Caucus, placed a better than expected 4th in the 2011 Iowa Straw Poll, higher than he was polling at the time, and he, like Huckabee, had limited resources.
Unlike Huckabee, Santorum said he would attend the Iowa Straw Poll but would not put resources into it so his campaign would not be seen investing heavily into the event. Watching these two former Iowa Caucus winners’ approach to the Iowa Straw Poll sent a message to other candidates, most of whom either declined or were sitting on the fence. Only four candidates were certain to participate.
One has to wonder if the fate of the Iowa Straw Poll would have been different if Huckabee and Santorum were not in the race.