Considering both the amount of money he spent, and the fact that two of his top competitors weren’t actively participating, it should come as no surprise that Mitt Romney basically cleaned up in the Ames straw poll yesterday:
AMES, Iowa, Aug. 11 — With a convincing victory in the Republican straw poll here Saturday, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney vaulted himself into the next phase of a presidential nomination battle pitting his traditional early-state strategy against a more unorthodox approach by national front-runner Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Romney’s win in the nonbinding Ames contest, sealed by his appeals to the party’s conservative base and generous spending all around the state, underscored his attempt to concentrate time and resources on the opening states of Iowa and New Hampshire, believing that early victories will propel him to the nomination.
Giuliani, who is at odds with GOP conservatives on abortion and gay rights, skipped the Iowa test run as part of a blueprint for victory that is less dependent upon winning the first two voting states. Giuliani strategists see a flock of big states holding their contests in late January and on the first Tuesday in February as the former New York mayor’s best chance to secure the nomination.
“Romney’s running a more traditional campaign to solidify social conservatives and economic conservatives,” said Scott Reed, who managed Robert J. Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. “Rudy is not only trying to change the importance of the calendar but also trying to turn out a lot of moderates who don’t traditionally vote in these primaries and caucuses. . . . Giuliani’s strategy is not flawed — but it’s never been tested.”
The GOP race remains wide open, with many Republican voters disgruntled with their choices and support for all the leading candidates remaining relatively soft and shallow. That foreshadows five months of intensive campaigning before Iowa’s caucuses in January.
And here are the final results, courtesy of the NY Times
1. Mitt Romney 32 percent
2. Mike Huckabee 18 percent
3. Sam Brownback 15 percent
4. Tom Tancredo 14 percent
5. Ron Paul 9 percent
6. Tommy Thompson 7 percent
7. Fred Thompson 1 percent
8. Rudolph W. Giuliani 1 percent
9. Duncan Hunter 1 percent
10. John McCain (less than 1 percent)
11. John Cox (less than 1 percent)
A few observations about the results:
If Romney had come away from Ames with anything less than 30% of the vote, it probably would’ve been considered a loss for him. He invested a huge amount of money into a straw poll that has never been a good predictor of who the eventual nominee will be (in 1987 a guy named Pat Robertson won in Ames, and, in 1979, another guy by the name of Reagan only got 11% of the vote in Ames). If Giuliani, McCain and Fred Thompson had actively competed in this poll, I can guarantee that Romney would not have done this well
The relatively poor showings by Giuliani and (Fred) Thompson are meaningless because neither one of these campaigns was actively participating in the poll. Giuliani is still the man to beat for the Republican nomination, and Thompson, if he ever gets organized enough to enter the race, is still a force to contend with.
John McCain is a dead man. To come in, effectively, dead last among all of the declared candidates is about as big a road block as the Straight Talk Express could ever encounter.
Mike Huckabee in second place ? Who woulda thunk it ? At the very least, this means he’ll be taken more seriously than he was before. The same goes for Brownback and Tancredo.
Tommy Thompson threatened to withdraw from the race if he didn’t get second place at Ames. In response, most Republicans expressed surprise when told that Tommy Thompson was a candidate for President.
And, finally, there’s Ron Paul. While 9% may not be what his supporters might have hoped for, it is still a respectable showing and an indication that his 3% peak in national polls may be only the beginning. For anyone who believes in freedom, this could only be a good thing.
Hopefully, these results will be the beginning of a much-needed winnowing of the GOP field. With the exception of Giuliani and Fred Thompson, anyone who did worse than 5th place in this poll needs to recognize that they have no legitimate chance of winning the GOP nomination. And, yes, that includes you Senator McCain.