People can sneer all they want that it is ridiculously early to pay attention to the 2016 presidential campaign. In the early states, at least on the GOP side, the Invisible Primary is in full swing. That’s particularly true in Iowa, which will host still another candidate cattle call tomorrow night.
This one is an official Republican Party event, the Lincoln Dinner fundraiser that’s the biggest single-day money event prior to the August 8 Straw Poll. And speaking of the Straw Poll, finding out which candidates are in or out for that event, typically the first “scorable” moment of the cycle, will be a major preoccupation at the dinner, as noted by the Des Moines Register‘s Jennifer Jacobs:
With the Republican Party of Iowa’s straw poll 85 days away, will any candidate commit from the stage to participating in this hot potato event?
Party officials, who have battled to keep the straw poll alive after years of criticism that it’s irrelevant to the race and a waste of money for candidates, will leave ticket-sales fliers on dinner guests’ seats. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, one of the few non-2016ers who will take the microphone, will advertise that the $30 tickets are a bargain right now at $5 off.
Two candidates have confirmed they won’t attend: Bush and Graham.
The idea of Lindsey Graham showing his immigrant-loving RINO face at, much less spend money on, the Straw Poll is kinda risible, when you understand the kind of carnivorous conservatives who typically dominate the proceedings. But Bush’s decision to bag the event early will lead to a lot of pressure on him to declare his intentions towards Iowa: will he start spending more time there? Will he skip the state altogether?
Beyond Bush, though, there are four other speakers at tomorrow night’s dinner who have, like Bush, committed to the RedState Gathering in Atlanta the same weekend as the festivities in Boone: Fiorina, Jindal, Perry and Walker (Marco Rubio’s going to Atlanta, too, but won’t be in Des Moines this weekend to face questions about his August schedule). Believe me, if Scott Walker skips the Straw Poll, it will instantly turn into a contest to determine which bottom-feeders have to drop out long before the Caucuses. Conversely, anyone who agrees to make the arduous effort to be in Atlanta and Boone the same weekend (it’s one of those occasions where having a supporter’s handy private jet on hand will be helpful) will get a special I Love Iowa bonus.