Before diving into analysis, let’s review how I did on may Ames Straw Poll predictions:
Prediction: 1. Romney (by 13), 2. Huckabee 3. Giuliani 4. Brownback 5. Paul
Results: 1. Romney (by 13) 2. Huckabee 3. Brownback 4. Tancredo 5. Paul
Nailed it! Well, I was way off on Giuliani and think I (unofficially) had Tancredo in 6th or 7th. I will admit, that all through Friday and Saturday of last weekend, I was doubting my Huckabee prediction; that was a risk well taken. I am most pleased with my 13 point margin of victory prediction. Anyway, enough with that, let’s get to some analysis.
While Romney won, the biggest news was Huckabee’s second place finish. He had no buses and his organization was poor compared to Brownback. While this may not be enough for him to overtake Romney or Giuliani in January, it will certainly put him in the mix and will earn him outward support from people who were not supporting him purely because they thought he had no chance. Look for Huckabee to get a significant jump in support over the next few polls in Iowa.
Huckabee’s win also spells doom for Brownback. Sam can try to spin this all he wants, but the fact that he hired some 100 buses (by some accounts) and lost to his chief rival, Huckabee, who had no buses, demonstrates the weakness of his campaign. I would be surprised if Brownback stays in through January. It would be a waste of time and resources to do so.
This is also a big deal for Huckabee because it makes him a front runner for the VEEP slot should Romney or Giuliani win the nomination. Both of those candidates would have a fairly tough time in the South, and would absolutely need to run with a southerner. (The short list: F. Thompson, Huckabee, Kay Baily Hutchison, and Charlie Crist – but this is a topic for another day).
Mitt Romney, obviously, was also a big winner in this. And had Brownback or Tancredo come in second, as many predicted, he would have been the only big winner. The 13% victory, as I said in my Friday morning post, is just fine. It is not too low, but it is not groundbreaking. Romney did what he needed to do, and he seems to have Iowa locked up. Romney should continue to have an active presence in Iowa, but should scale it down. Invest more resources in SC, FL, and NV.
Mitt’s victory has been getting some criticism due to the claim that he spent some $400+ dollars per vote. I suppose that this is one way to look at it, but more accurately, all of this is an investment. Sure he spent a lot of money to get people there, but he doesn’t have the advantage of Giuliani, McCain, or Thompson who have built in name recognition. Romney has to work harder and spend more money than any other of the top candidates. The money he spent on Ames was purely for marketing. He did not spend the money to win Ames, he spent the money to get his name, demonstrate that he is electable, and to keep in in the top tier. This event was about January, not Ames.
Finally, some analysis on the other candidates. This morning Tommy Thompson withdrew. He was a nice enough guy and was likely competent enough to be president, but he was lacking everything else. In the debates he looked like a talking statue, he does not carry himself in a presidential manner, and he did not have the bank roll to compete with the other candidates. A person like Thompson is perfect for a cabinet postion, but nothing more.
Ron Paul also did not have a bad day, while 5th is nothing to pat yourself on the back for and was worse than his supporters thought they would do, it shows that he at least belongs a little. Paulites have been complaining about efforts to keep Ron out of the debates, they have a legitimate argument. Ron Paul is a legitimate second tier candidate, if Hunter, Brownback, and Tancredo are in the debates, so should Paul. I think he will stay in the race if only for ideological purposes. He is the GOP Ralph Nader.
McCain is done in Iowa and likely nationally.
I am starting to doubt if Thompson will really run. I’m not sure his heart is in it, at least that’s my impression.