Jeb Bush sent ripples through Republican circles when he announced on Tuesday that he would not participate in the Iowa Straw Poll. The poll, which serves as a fundraiser for the state’s Republican Party, is among the first events of the presidential cycle for Republicans. As such, it serves a weeding-out process for GOP presidential hopefuls.
On her show Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow said Bush’s opt-out amounted to a major dis toward the state’s Republican Party.
“That unsolicited announcement from Jeb Bush, that was a big one-finger salute to the Republicans of Iowa,” Maddow said. “Other candidates have backhanded Iowa in the past … but Jeb Bush is going out of his way, three months in advance, to make the Republican Party of Iowa mad at him.”
Maddow pointed out that no other candidate has bothered to say whether he or she will be attending.
Iowa’s GOP chairman, Jeff Kaufmann, reacted to Bush’s announcement, telling The Des Moines Register:
We hope Governor Bush rethinks his decision and realizes that grass-roots will only grow in Iowa if he waters them. The RedState Gathering is a four-day event, and other candidates have already indicated that they will be attending both. We don’t buy this excuse and neither will Iowans.
The Iowa straw poll has been denounced as a pay-to-play event where candidates are charged $30,000 for a tent and spend hundreds of thousands more to court supporters. It has also been criticized for shoring up extremists. Organizers have tried to address these concerns: This year, the state party is not charging candidates to set up a tent, and has moved the festivities to Boone, where costs are lower.