Yesterday, both Rudy Giuliani and John McCain announced that they would skip the Ames Straw poll this August. Their (announced) logic is that because of the early start to the campaigning season, and the front-loaded primaries, Ames is no longer a good test of ground organization and public support. While that assertion may be true, I think they have other motives. Both Giuliani and McCain are doing poorly in Iowa, and have been since the second Republican debate. The most recent poll from that state shows Romney with 17% lead over Giuliani, a 3-1 lead over Thompson (Fred), and an even bigger lead over McCain. While it is still early in the campaign season, it seems highly unlikely that either can retake the lead, the state has become Romney’s to loose. I think Giuliani and McCain are both trying to avoid a huge embarrassment and discredit a Romney win. While the absence of Giuliani and McCain may, indeed, make a Romney win less of an accomplishment, I fully believe the move will backfire. The Iowa GOP, and many voting Republicans are steamed. They see this as a snub – and that could mean even higher poll numbers for Romney. That will draw even more media attention, and that would help spread Romney’s message to other important states like South Carolina.
While McCain and Giuliani are right in stating that Ames is nothing more than a straw poll, there are some other facts that they may not want to hear about. Firstly, no Republican candidate has ever won the nomination without attending the Ames Straw Poll. Secondly, while you don’t get any delegates from a win at Ames, that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t effect the nomination. in 1975, Jimmy Carter won the straw poll – surprising many and giving him the boost he needed to get into the headlines, win the nomination, and become President.
I also have this to say: Iowa is a right-leaning moderate state, but Ames is a left-leaning moderate city. While many voters are bussed in from around Iowa, there are sure to be (plenty) of Ames locals attending. The ability to win in a left-leaning city could be an indicator that Romney has strong pull in moderate circles. That could easily be seen as a bellwether for moderate to left-leaning states like those in the Great Lakes region – the region where, I feel, the Presidency will be decided. A Romney win in Ames could be a sign of a new generation of “
Reagan Romney Democrats.”