Illustrating a pronounced shift from his 2008 strategy, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has decided not to compete in any state GOP straw polls, including Iowa's historic Ames straw poll in August. The former Massachusetts governor currently leads national polls for the GOP nomination.
"Our campaign has made the decision to not participate in any straw polls, whether it's in Florida, Iowa, Michigan or someplace else, " Matt Rhoades, Romney's campaign manager said in a statement, "We respect the straw poll process. In the last presidential campaign we were both strengthened as an organization and learned some important lessons by participating in them. This time we will focus our energies and resources on winning primaries and caucuses."
In 2008, Romney spent reportedly over $1 million to win the Iowa Republican straw poll. Despite the investment, Romney ended up losing the Iowa Caucuses to former Arkansas Governor and current Fox News host Mike Huckabee five months later.
This time Romney aides say his focus is more defined, and straw polls may not be worth the expensive effort.
"The campaign is making a smart decision to not to compete in the upcoming series of straw polls. Mitt's focus is on winning the nomination, not the straw polls." Brian Kennedy, Romney's Iowa strategist and former state party chairman said in a release to FOX. "Mitt will be back in Iowa this summer and will participate in the Ames debate."
In Florida, a state key to Romney's 2012 campaign strategy, former party chairman John Thrasher said Romney's decision to forego the Florida straw poll made "strategic sense."
"Florida is an expensive state to campaign in. As a candidate that has already proven his organizational strength and support in Florida, it's smart for him to focus his time and resources on winning the actual primary," said Thrasher, who was one of the first key Republicans in the Sunshine state to support the former Massachusetts governor.
"I know first-hand from Mitt that he is committed to campaigning in Florida throughout the primary process and am very happy to hear that he will also participate in the (Republican Party of Florida's 'Presidential 5') debate," Thrasher also said.
However, state organizers of the straw polls, that can be an effective tool to organize state party faithful and can also help raise funds for state parties, questioned Romney's decision.
"It is unfortunate that Governor Mitt Romney has chosen to bypass this year's 'Presidency 5' straw poll given our state's crucial role in choosing the Republican nominee, "said Andy Palmer, executive director with the Republican Party of Florida." With thousands of activists signed up to attend, the event would have been the perfect opportunity to communicate his message directly to Republican voters in the most important swing state in the nation."
"I'll leave it to the pundits and voters to assess the wisdom of skipping an event of tremendous importance to tens of thousands of Iowa Republicans and caucusgoers," Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said.