Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) said Thursday that he'd be skipping the influential August straw poll of potential Iowa caucusgoers. 

Romney, who won the 2007 straw poll, announced through his campaign that he would skip the Ames Straw Poll this cycle, underscoring his more intense focus on the New Hampshire primary and other nominating contests. 


"Our campaign has made the decision to not participate in any straw polls, whether it’s in Florida, Iowa, Michigan or someplace else. We respect the straw poll process," said Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades. "In the last presidential campaign we were both strengthened as an organization and learned some important lessons by participating in them.  This time we will focus our energies and resources on winning primaries and caucuses. We look forward to bringing Mitt Romney’s strong pro-jobs message to every part of the country.”

The announcement comes after a virtual implosionof former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's (R-Ga.) campaign. Gingrich was expected to be a big player in the Iowa caucuses.

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty's (R) campaign quickly pounced on Romney's announcement, reaffirming his commitment to the straw poll.

"I joined Governor Pawlenty's campaign because I knew he could put his record before voters everywhere," said Pawlenty's Iowa steering committee chairman Matt Whitaker. "The Ames straw poll is a great gathering of conservatives, and Governor Pawlenty's solid record will be well received there. I look forward to joining thousands of Iowans in casting my vote for Governor Pawlenty in Ames this summer and in the caucuses this winter."

Matt Strawn, the chairman of the Iowa GOP, skipped directly criticizing Romney, but talked up the importance of the straw poll.

“I’ll leave it to the pundits and voters to assess the wisdom of skipping an event of tremendous importance to tens of thousands of Iowa Republicans and caucusgoers. More than ever, Iowa Republicans are energized and motivated to utilize the Ames Straw Poll as a catalyst toward building a 99-county organization to deny President Obama a second term," he said. "I’m encouraged that this grassroots energy, combined with the need for other Presidential campaigns to demonstrate their organizational strength and support, will lead to a very successful Ames Straw Poll in August.”

The Ames Straw Poll has been an Iowa tradition since 1979. It draws voters from around the state and, although its results are nonbinding, it's seen as an early test of a candidate's organizational skills, which are particulary important in a caucus-voting state.

Romney won the 2007 poll -- he heavily outspent his opponents to do so -- but lost the 2008 Iowa caucuses to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

The 2011 Ames Straw Poll is scheduled for August 13 on the campus of Iowa State University.