The specter of the Iowa Straw Poll no longer looms over Gov. Scott Walker's potential presidential campaign.

The Iowa Republican Party voted unanimously Friday to cancel the Aug. 8 event in Boone.

"Many candidates are still concerned about participating in an event that carries significant media-driven expectations well ahead of our First in the Nation Caucuses," Iowa GOP chairman Jeff Kauffman said in a statement. "While we still deeply believe that the Straw Poll offers a fantastic opportunity for candidates, we need to focus on strengthening our First in the Nation status and putting a Republican back in the White House."

Walker, who is expected to launch his campaign next month after the state budget wraps up, faced a conundrum about whether to participate in the poll.

With big-name contenders such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee backing out, there was little upside for Walker to participate, particularly with him leading in the latest Iowa polls. Anything less than a first place finish could have dampened his campaign. But not participating could have upset the Iowa Republican establishment, whose support could be influential in winning the Iowa caucus early next year.

In recent weeks, as other candidates backed out of the straw poll, Walker hedged on whether he would participate, saying only that he isn't a candidate yet.

The event would have been the seventh straw poll since 1979, when George H.W. Bush was tops on his way to winning the state's first-in-the-nation nominating contest. Bob Dole in 1995 and George W. Bush in 1999 also won the straw poll on their way to winning the Iowa caucus and Republican presidential nomination.

But the last two events have been notable for dashing presidential hopes.

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson finished sixth in 2007, dropping out of the race the next day. And former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty dropped out after finishing third in 2011.

The GOP's 2012 presidential nominee Mitt Romney won the 2007 straw poll, but runner-up Huckabee later won the Iowa caucus. Former Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann won the 2011 straw poll, but finished a distant sixth in the caucus behind former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.


Matthew DeFour covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.

Mark Sommerhauser covers state government and politics for the Wisconsin State Journal.