Will Bush Skip Iowa, New Hampshire to Avoid Common Core Questions?

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

According to Buzzfeed, Jeb Bush has decided to skip the Iowa Straw Poll and may give up on Iowa entirely:

Jeb Bush’s decision to forego this summer’s Iowa Straw Poll has roiled many conservatives in the state, but that snub might only be the beginning: According to three sources with knowledge of Bush’s campaign strategy, the likely Republican presidential candidate does not plan to seriously contest the first-in-the-nation caucuses — and may ultimately skip the state altogether.

The Iowa Straw Poll, sponsored by the state GOP, is widely viewed as a dry run for the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential nomination contest.  Candidates have to identify their supporters and get them to the Straw Poll to cast their votes, a process that in many ways replicates the actual caucuses.

Buzzfeed further reports that:

[A] top Republican consultant and a high-level fundraiser — both of whom have been courted by the Bush camp, and requested anonymity to recount private conversations — said Bush’s advisers were explicit that the campaign would not seriously invest in Iowa during the primaries. Similarly, an operative involved in Bush’s yet-to-be-announced campaign told BuzzFeed News earlier this year that the state was a low priority.

And the political consultant attributed the decision in large part to Bush’s support for the Common Core:

Common Core has become an anchor tied around this guy’s neck… and they realize it,” said the political consultant, who met with senior Bush advisers while he was considering joining the campaign.

Here’s where things get really interesting.

Parents and other activists despise the Common Core standards, in large part, because they are of poor quality and structured in a way that makes it very difficult to teach above the standards.  Nonetheless, as he recently did on Megyn Kelly’s Fox News Channel show, Bush continues to perpetuate the PR propaganda of the Common Core owners that the standards are of high quality.  In that regard, Bush has benefited immensely from the widespread failure of the media to report on the quality of the standards.

That would all change if Bush actually started campaigning in Iowa and in New Hampshire.  In both states, voters want to meet candidates and put their questions to them.  The long lead up to Iowa’s first-in-the nation caucuses and New Hampshire’s first-in-the nation primary gives the voters in those states that opportunity.

By skipping Iowa, Bush avoids having to meet the voters one-on-one leading up to the Straw Poll and again leading up to the actual caucuses.  He still has to negotiate New Hampshire, but he also doesn’t risk having two contested losses in a row.  As Buzzfeed reported:

Bush’s advisers told the two Republican sources that they would focus on a strong performance in New Hampshire, and save their resources for later primary contests, when many of the other contenders will be strapped for cash.

Note that the Bush team doesn’t expect to win in New Hampshire.  They just want to get out of New Hampshire and, more to the point, get past the states where voters expect one-on-one interactions.  They figure that, with all his money connections, Bush can win in those states with a blitz of 30-second Madison Avenue TV ads.

It is a high-stakes gamble that won’t work.  By then, the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire will have pushed the Common Core quality issues into the media and the anchor around Bush’s neck will be too heavy.

Emmett McGroarty is the executive director of APIA Education.