Giuliani will not participate in Straw Poll

At 11 o’clock central time this morning, Giuliani’s campaign aides talked with reporters via a conference call to make the announcement that Giuliani will not participate in the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll in Ames this August.  Giuliani aides said it would let them focus exclusively on the Caucuses and shift the $3 million that would be required to be competitive in the Straw Poll would be spent, instead, on Giuliani’s Caucus effort.  Here’s the Radio Iowa story(UPDATE:  at the bottom of this post is the RPI reaction statement.)

The Giuliani campaign’s Maria Comella came on the line and introduced Giuliani campaign manager Michael DuHaime.

DuHaime:  "We have made a decision as a campaign that we are not going to participating in a financial way in any straw polls this year and that includes the Ames Straw Poll, most notably, but also other straw polls out there being discussed — Texas, Michigan and others — and we’ve made that decision as basically being the one that’s in our best interest.

"I think what’s important to note is that we are 100 percent committed to winning the Iowa Caucuses in January.  We are going to take all the resources that were budgeted towards the Straw Poll and we are going to use them to win the Caucus in January.  We appreciate and certainly respect the process in Iowa and believe that the best way to do that is to dedicate those resources toward the caucus.  That is where we will be going. We made this in consultation with our advisors in both in Iowa, our county chairs and right up to Jim Nussle, county chairs and muncipal chairs and solicited a great deal of input from people we trust who are on our team in helping us win and this is in no way in any kind of a reflection and I think some people may misinterpret it sort of as us not playing 100 percent in Iowa.  We are 100 percent playing in Iowa.  You will see the mayor there early and often and you will see us spending a great resources to make sure we win the Caucus in Iowa.

"We respect the process a great deal and our belief from the campaign is that Iowa Caucus-goers take their role in the process of having an extraordinary influence on who the leader of the free world is very seriously and my belief is when they look at the candidates, they’re going to base their decision on who’s going to be the best leader…I don’t believe they’re going to make their decision on whethere or not somebody went to a non-binding straw poll in August so I’m putting my faith both in our candidate and also my faith in Iowa Caucus-goers to look at this that way."

DuHaime then introduced former Iowa Congressman Jim Nussle, who is a consultant working for the Giuliani campaign.

Nussle:  "From an Iowa perspective let me only add a couple of things.  One is that we certainly in Iowa have been anxiously awaiting this decision because we know it has significance for the Caucuses in January. The result of not participating in the straw poll allows us to be able to apply those resrouces that would have been diverted toward that effort to winning the Caucuses and it gives us, I think, some huge advantage and momentum as we look forward to January.

"The other significance, of course, is that again the campaign making the committment of the candidate’s time, a committment of financial resources, the fact that the campaign itself is in many instances are now going to be moving resources and staff to Iowa for the Caucuses to be able to focus like a lazer on winning the actual caucuses to us also gives us an advantage as opposed to the distraction that many of the other candidates are facing in having to deal with the straw poll.

"I happen to believe that in this instance if you’re a second tier candidate the straw poll is significant because it gives you possibly the ability of getting some attention and being able to, you know, demonstrate some momentum and that’s one thing that at least with Rudy Giuliani is not necessary.  He’s been able to demonstrate that already not only in Iowa but more especially and more importantly across the entire country.  The fact that we have states in play that we in Iowa have an opportunity to watch, such as California and states that we haven’t heard being in play for Republicans for years gives us not only a lot of hope, but it gives, I think, the Iowa Caucuses and their effort there even more significance because of the momentum that would provide our campaign.

"So we’re very happy with this decision, the fact that we can now focus on the caucuses, the fact that they’re made a committment, yet again, to the Iowa Caucuses and the fact that resources, instead of being diverted toward this kind of a side show effort, can actually be applied to what is the most important mision here, and that’s winning and that’s showing the kind of momentum toward the nomination that a candidate would need."

Reporters on the call posed questions.  Will transcribe soon.

Question from AP’s Mike Glover:  A lot of Republicans say it’s not realistic to not compete in the Straw Poll and compete in the Caucuses.  History, they say, teaches you have to begin the organization early.  How do you respond to that? 

DuHaime:  "I think there are an awful lot of people who thought this was, uh, that Mayor Giuliani wouldn’t be ahead in the polls now and there are an awful lot of people who predicted this was the kind of campaign that maybe we couldn’t be successful at it.  I think everything has been borne out but those kind of convention wisdom is just false…at least at this point.  I believe if we take our resources and move our staff, you know, entirely statewide it’s going to allow us to organize appropriately throughout the entire state.  You know, this type of campaign has never been waged before and I realize the conventional wisdom is gonna say certain things about how we should and how we should not run our campaign.  The bottom line is we’re going to do what we feel is right and again, as I said, I’m going to put my faith in the Iowa Caucus-goers to make the decision about who should be best president based on their records, not on how they did in the straw poll."

Question from a DC-based reporter:  Both of you mentioned, or I guess Cong. Nussle had mentioned the Caucus, or excuse me, the Straw Poll helping second-tier candidates.  How concerned are you that this will take some attention away from the mayor and instead focus on those candidates and pull away some of your support in the state, especially with a powerhouse like Fred Thompson coming into the race?

DuHaime: "I’m not really concerned that we lose any support based off of this.  I understand, again what I said before, about conventional wisdom.  I really don’t believe people who support the mayor and want him to be president of the United States are going to back away based on his decision about a non-binding straw poll.  Clearly, it is, there are a number of strong candidates in this race and it’s clearly, Iowa’s going to be very close in January and many other states are going to be close as well.  We anticipate this being a close, tough-fought race throughout the rest of this year and into the early part of next year, but it, you know, it remains to be seen as to who gets or loses momentum based on the straw poll as of now, but we based it — as Congressman Nussle said — on our ability and where we stand in this race right now and on resource allocation and that decision being made, to put our resources toward the caucuses and you know with everything that happens in January and February of next year, no campaign in the past has ever been in the position where you have this many primaries in this short a period of time in such expensive states and so people have looked at the past, well, decisions were made that way in the past and so they must be right this year, you know, we just don’t necessarily agree.  You know, this is an entirely different campaign that has to be run.  We have a very strong candidate who is the best candidate in the field, so I’m not too worried about what the results of this do to other candidates.  I’m sure they’ll use it for momentum and they should."

Question from Bob Fisher of KLSS/KRIB radio:  I’m kind of following up on the last question.  Jim Nussle, your reaction, you know, you talked about the second-tier candidates maybe being able to boost themselves up at the straw poll.  Why wouldn’t Mr. Giuliani want to go there and kind of pop that balloon at the party?

Nussle:  "First of all, I disagree with the last part.  I don’t think there’s any ballons that are going to get popped by anybody at this kind of a thing.  I mean, remember what this event is.  I don’t want to take away the significance of the Caucus itself.  The Caucus is really the prize here.  That’s the effort toward building momentum.  That’s the victory in the victory column.  That’s the beginning of the delegate selection process, etc.  The Straw Poll is a fundraiser.  Now, it’s a lot of fun.  It’s an exciting event.  It’s great fun for the about 175-to-100 mile radius around Ames for the people who go there but it is not a demographic cross-section of the state or our caucus-goers.  It’s not a scientific poll.  In fact, as many of the reporters on the call who cover both the Straw Poll and the Caucus know, candidates actually purchase the attendance and so oftentimes some of these candidates who are a little bit better funded have a little bit better ability to ‘organize’ which is supposed to be the test of all this.

"Finally, I would just say the conventional wisdom is based, I would say, on a couple of things that may be not quite so conventional, but may be more selfish.  Certainly, if you’re a part of the party, you want to raise as much money as possible and making the caucus, or excuse me, the Straw Poll significant is to your advantage and so there’s a reason why they would do it.  Others, candidates, who want to use it as a way of making their own candidacy legitimate will want to make sure their participation or their position at the Straw Poll is significant, so I understand why people are trying to make this significant, but I’ve gotta add — and I think this is important for Iowa Republicans and all to remember and that is that the Caucuses are what is important here.  The Straw Poll actually could in fact take away Iowa’s significance if we’re not careful.  It’s not a serious event in the grand scheme of picking a nominee and at this time in our history with the war on terror and economic challenges facing our country, we need to have a serious conversation about our nominee and not just have, you know, these kind of fundraising straw polls, treating them as somehow significant."

Question from Dave Price of WHO-TV:  This is for Congressman Nussle.  Congressman Nussle, if I remember right, I think you called the Straw Poll a ‘circus’ a couple of months back.  Do you think the party ought to just get rid of it?

Nussle: "Oh no.  I think it’s great fun.  I mean, circuses are fun.  The reason I called it a circus is because I like the circus and some others call it the State Fair of politics.  Well, my goodness, the State Fair is loads of fun. In fact, I’m going to encourage people to go to it, Giuliani supporters to go to it.  Go to it and listen to the candidates.  Have fun.  Make a day of it.  Enjoy it, you know, network with other people, but seriously, we can’t take, the Caucuses are what’s serious.  That’s what’s serious in the nomination effort. That’s what’s serious for Iowa and we have to be a little careful that we don’t put so much significance to a Straw Poll that somehow we may in fact take away from the outcome of the Caucus themselves and I would hate to see that because if that happens, particularly with the compressed schedule, Iowa may find themselves in a very precarious situation and losing its status would be something that would be far more tragic for Iowa than whether or not someone participates in this fundraiser."

Question from DM Register’s David Yepsen:  Queston to Mike — what were you looking at as a cost to compete in this thing…before you decided not to play, I assume you made some decisions as to what the price tag was going to be and secondly, will the candidate still show up?  Even though you’re not competing for votes, it is a cattle show.  Will he still be there to get his share of the media attention?

DuHaime:  "We anticipate the cost being essentially multi-million dollar costs and these tend to escalate.  If I look back in conversations, looking back at other campaigns, what has been spent in the past, we anticipated this being, probably to do this and to do it ‘right’ you’re probably talking about a $3 million committment so that is the answer to your question one.  Question two, we have not decided on our August schedule yet and whether or not, you know, whether or not that will be the best use of the mayor’s time in terms of his campaigning in Iowa.  You’ll see him heavily in Iowa. We’ll be back in Iowa in less than two weeks.  I’ll be back in Iowa tomorrow.  This is, um, you will see him a lot.  In terms of where he will be and when in August, we have not determined that yet."

Question from Eric Page from CR Gazette:  would you point to the easly start of all of this, having to start looking at where you’re allocating your resources this early into the race — you keep talking about allocating resources, allocating resources and you just don’t have the funding.  The early start to all this, do you point to that?

DuHaime:  You know, I don’t know if it’s the early start or necessarily the early start of the campagin or just the change and the compression of the calendar that Congressman Nussle said.  That’s at some level a factor.  If you looked in the past and you looked even in just the 2000 campaign, if candidates were to raise $80,000 or $100,000 or a million dollars or so, you could almost say, ‘I can spend money in every single state that really has an early primary’ and if you were a viable candidate and you could raise that money you could basically play in every single state.  If you look at the calendar as it stands now, you probably have four states that are before February 5th and then the potential of two dozen states that come February 5th, February 9th, February 12th and if you look at that kind of, the money that it will take to compete and be ready to compete in such a large schedule, that has a, sure it’s a factor when you weight that, but really what we’re doing now is we’re taking the money that we had allocated towards the Straw Poll and we are going to make sure that we spend that money in Iowa.  This is going to be, we are 100 percent commmitted to playing here.  We will spend millions and millions of dollars here in Iowa.  I don’t want to go into what our budget will be in terms of what it’ll be in terms of the Caucus when we’re all in, but we are just making sure that rather than kind of diverting our Iowa resources, some in August and some in December and January, we’d rather spend it all in December and January."

Question from a New York-based reporter:  Is this the beginning of kind of a February 5th strategy, or kind of deemphasizing the first three states?

DuHaime:  "Not at all.  There’s no deemphasis at all in the first states.  I mean clearly we want to win Iowa very badly.  We are going to do everything we can to make sure we win Iowa.  We’d like to win New Hampshire.  We want to win South Carolina.  There’s no deemphasis.  I think some people may look at it and say we are deemphasizing it, but that would be I think spin from people who want to make it look that way.  There’s no deemphasis whatsoever.  We are 100 percent committed to winning Iowa and I believe we will do so.  People will say this is an unconentional way to do it, but so be it."   

UPDATE:  The Republican Party of Iowa issued a statement.


Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has decided he will not attend the Iowa Straw Poll in Ames on August 11.

The Iowa Straw Poll has historically been an accurate indicator of who will succeed in the Iowa Caucus.  In 1999, the top two finishers went on to receive over 70 percent of the caucus vote.  "It’s exceedingly difficult to win on caucus night when you have missed the opportunity to speak to over a third of the caucus-goers at the largest gathering of Republicans in the nation," said Chuck Laudner, Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa.

Iowan Jim Nussle, a consultant for the campaign, claims Giuliani can bypass the Straw Poll as a result of his national name I.D.  However, his national name recognition and polling has not helped him build an effective grass-roots organization capable of winning the Iowa Caucuses, let alone the Iowa Straw Poll. 

The Republican Party of Iowa is disappointed over his decision, but more so over his lackluster campaign efforts in Iowa.  Giuliani’s efforts in the Hawkeye State have also been disappointing for many Iowans who have not had the opportunity to see, hear, meet or question the former New York Mayor.  The Straw Poll would have been an opportunity for Giuliani to show Iowans he is engaged, cares about Iowans’ issues and is 100 percent dedicated to Iowa.

Regarding Giuliani’s decision, Laudner said, "He was in, he was out, he was in, now he’s out.  Who knows.  Maybe he’ll change his mind again.  Regardless, his name will be on the Straw Poll ballot in August."

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.