Rep. Michele Bachmann’s meteoric rise to front-runner status in the Republican presidential hunt will not take her to the Presidency 5 Straw Poll event in Florida in September. Though Bachmann will participate in a Fox News debate just days earlier, the decision to skip the Sunshine State’s straw poll has Floridians scratching their heads.
Florida-based media consultant Rick Wilson told The Daily Caller, “If you’re ready for prime-time, you’ll be at Presidency 5. If not, well, good luck with that whole regional campaign thing.”
And Brian Hughes, Communications Director for the Republican Party of Florida (RPOF), flat-out called Bachmann’s decision a “bad move.” (RELATED: Bachmann takes Sunday talk-show victory lap after Ames)
When news broke about her decision to skip the event, there was speculation that fresh out of Ames, Iowa, the Bachmann campaign just didn’t have the resources to pull off another straw-poll event.
Hughes doesn’t buy it.
The straw poll, which takes place September 22-24 in Orlando, will poll votes from 3,500 delegates who were chosen in advance. Unlike with the Iowa event, participating in the Presidency 5 poll requires no massive logistical efforts or financial outlays.
“This isn’t Iowa, where a campaign, in order to win, has to bus in people,” Hughes told The Daily Caller. “We are talking about delegates who already paid their way.”
“Presidency 5 is a real contest of ideas, not of who supplies the most corn dogs, fried butter and carnival tricks,” Wilson added. “The 3,500 delegates are smart, active political folks from the grassroots who have a 100-percent track record of predicting the eventual nominee in a state that is a must-win in the nomination fight.”
Moreover, the bulk of the 4,000-5,000 people who will be in the audience for the Fox News debate are the delegates themselves. And all the candidate who participate in the debate will appear on the ballot for the straw poll.
“Essentially what you have is a campaign coming in for the Fox debate, talking to a live audience who will, two days later, begin casting their vote for a ballot that will include all those candidate’s names,” Hughes told TheDC.
“I don’t know how any campaign … can skip or alienate this important activist base in what I would argue is the most important swing state in the U.S.,” he argued. “The path to the White House goes through Florida.”
So far the straw poll participants include Ron Paul, Herman Cain, and Jon Huntsman. Mitt Romney and Bachmann are, so far, the only two participants in the Fox News debate who will skip the straw poll.
Bachmann spokesperson Alice Stewart previously told Politico of the campaign’s decision: “We just won the Straw Poll. Our team has spent the past 50 days or so setting up a campaign, participating in two major debates, voting on key issues in Washington, and executing a winning Straw Poll strategy … We are just now at the point where we can focus on building a team in the critical state of Florida.”
Update: Billie Tucker, a Florida Tea Party activist, emailed TheDC to say she is “disappointed” Bachmann won’t participate in the straw poll.
“This is not good and I do not understand why she isn’t going to be there,” said Tucker. “We were hoping to have her there since so many of us in Florida joined the GOP to ensure the Tea Party voice was heard.”
“Now – what?” she added.