Pope Erick Versus The Iowa Straw Poll

I should have seen this coming, since the same conflict occurred in 2012, when Rick Perry announced his presidential candidacy from the stage of Erick Erickson’s RedState Gathering even as the Iowa Straw Poll awarded Michelle Bachmann a win. Ol’ Erick seems to be counter-scheduling again, with the 2015 version of his annual event, in Atlanta, being held from August 6 until August 9. The Iowa Straw Poll is on August 8.

The scary thing for Iowans is that the RedState Gathering has already received five confirmations from actual or proto-presidential candidates, including top-tier candidates Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Here’s the reaction from The Iowa Republican‘s Craig Robinson:

A candidate’s attendance to a four-day conference doesn’t necessarily mean they will not be participating in the Iowa GOP’s Straw Poll but it does raise some concerns.

The calendar of the first full week in August is also a big factor. On Thursday, August 6th the first sanctioned Republican debate will be held in Cleveland, Ohio. That means that the only candidates who could attend the RedState Gathering that day would be someone who didn’t meet the RNC’s debate criteria, which we should know more about later this week.

It would also be odd for a candidate participating in the straw poll to be out of the state the day before the event. A candidate could participate in the Straw Poll on Saturday and easily get to Atlanta on Sunday, but that wouldn’t be advisable if you happen to be the winning candidate or a candidate who didn’t meet or exceed expectations.

More specifically, Walker’s absence could be a blow:

It should surprised nobody that Jeb Bush is already confirmed to be in Atlanta and not rural Boone on that weekend. Erickson actually benefits from holding a competing event with the Straw Poll because it gives candidates like Bush an easy out. The candidate that is probably the most concerning on RedState’s list is Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker. Walker is currently the frontrunner in Iowa, and if he opts to not participate in the Straw Poll, it will change the dynamics of the event in a substantial way. When John McCain and Rudy Giuliani skipped the Straw Poll in 2007 it was a big blow, but the event was salvageable because nobody really thought that either would win on caucus night. If Walker opts to attend an event in Atlanta, Georgia, a state that will not hold its primary on March 1st at the earliest, it could become problematic for the Iowa GOP.

That is true. I guess the other thing to note is that if the candidates all flock to Atlanta and diss Iowa Erick Erickson’s ego may not be able to fit into the arena. He’s already being described as “brilliant” by Ron Fournier for suggesting that presidential candidates addressing his event focus on some sort of Vision for the Country in 2020 instead of just bashing Obama. I wonder if he will assume his tiara as would-be Pope and review the Christian credentials of the speakers. I mean, Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina are Catholics (so to some extent is “Evangelical Catholic” Bobby Jindal), which means they have their own Pope and also means they are probably not biblical inerrancy people like Erick.

But hey: anything to avoid a long expensive August day in Boone, Iowa!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.