"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," Strawn said in a Thursday night statement. "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." The decision may reflect smart priorities -- Romney won the Iowa straw poll in 2007 but lost the caucuses the following year and went on to lose the nomination -- but it will disappoint Republican activists in the three states, who look forward to the attention lavished upon them by straw vote seekers. It's also another sign that Romney views himself as a front runner, with little to gain and plenty to lose by participating in a symbolic contest. Romney's campaign released statements from Republican leaders in the three states defending his decision. Typical was this comment from Saul Anuzis, a Republican National Committeeman from Michigan and this state's former GOP chairman: "The campaign's decision to not participate in any straw polls is a strategic decision on their part. Straw polls are an expensive proposition and they have decided to focus their resources on primary day. I can respect that. "