Jeb Bush to skip Iowa Straw Poll

The likely Republican presidential candidate will instead attend a competing event, the RedState Gathering in Atlanta, the day of the Iowa event, GOP sources in Iowa told The Des Moines Register Tuesday. A spokesman for Bush confirmed the report.

Bush, a former Florida governor, is the first among the Republican 2016 presidential field to officially opt out of the straw poll, a nationally-renowned event that has drawn significant criticism over the years.

The Republican Party of Iowa, which hosts the Iowa Straw Poll, has been working to shore up the event’s reputation and lure candidates by addressing some of the most prevalent complaints. Last week, Iowa GOP officials announced they’ll provide free tent space and utilities for the campaigns. The straw poll has been bashed as having outsized importance, even to the point of having losing candidates drop out of the race. Campaigns sometimes spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at the straw poll as a sort of dry run for the Iowa caucuses.