Republicans in Iowa are disappointed that GOP Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will not participate in the Iowa straw poll in August. It is considered one of the marquee events of the Iowa campaign, and it's by far the most-watched straw poll in the presidential election campaign season.
John Stineman, a long-time Iowa GOP strategist, says the problem for Romney is that the expectations game is far tougher than it is for any other candidate.
Romney poured tremendous resources into the 2007 straw poll in Iowa. He won, but it was like he peaked too soon and lost the caucuses to upstart Mike Huckabee five months later.
Romney is polling well in a match up against President Obama, and his campaign is trying to figure out how to play, nurture and capitalize on his front-runner status. And, that will be tricky, according to Stineman.
Romney's message is that he's skipping all straw polls, and that he'll use his resources to run a campaign aimed at winning contests where the votes actually count.
Romney has insisted in recent appearances that he'll still campaign in Iowa, but that he's running a very different campaign than the previous one.
Stineman says a lot of people in the state like Romney and they want him to compete. They also want a full roster of candidates in the caucuses. But Stineman adds it's only pundits who talk about the stature of the caucuses diminishing, if not everyone competes.
By not competing in the Iowa straw poll, Romney may have a hard time keeping his troops in the state energized.
Activists want to be active, Stineman says. And the straw poll is one way to do that.
Plus, the straw poll comes at a point when it helps the organization get it into high gear for the final push through the fall pre-caucus campaign.
Romney won't have that if he skips the straw poll, and he'll need to find some other way to get it. That is, if he wants to do well in the caucuses.