Gov. Romney was expected to win the Ames Straw Poll by a big margin, and he did. In fact, he took it a step beyond that, by winning by the biggest margin in the history of Ames. So, with that out of the way, the question becomes: “What is the overall effect of Ames?” The answer to that depends, largely, on which candidate we are talking about:
Gov. Romney – If nothing more, Mitt Romney has cemented his place as the Iowa frontrunner. But I think he has done more, I think he has proven his ability to move the vote. He has shown that he can run a more personalized campaign and turn it into a win. His strength not only won the Ames Straw poll, but it drove John McCain and Rudy Giuliani out of the contest in June. Fearing being run over by the Romney campaign, the other two frontrunners decided to cut their losses and skip Ames. I also think that this could go a little ways in erasing the “Romney is not electable” motto. While that is still an issue he is going to have to attack bit by bit, he has proven, once again, that he can win when he makes it a priority to do so. His ability to set goals and achieve them (leading in the early states, winning Ames) is going to be a big help come primary time.
Gov. Huckabee – Gov. Huckabee’s supprisingly strong performance is not likely to give him any significant nationwide boost, but it does give his campaign some extra energy. Though, rumors that those riding the Fair Tax busses were disporportionately high number of Huckabee supporters may reduce the significance of his strong showing. The strong performance in Ames likely means that Huckabee is not going to drop out any time soon.
Sen. Brownback – Brownback came in a respectable third, but behind a candidate who was without major organization by the campaign, and way behind the candidate he has made a primary target. Brownback bet the house (and all of the money in it) on winning the straw poll or coming in a close second. He was obviously banking on the hope that a win or 2nd place finish whould boost his support and fundraising. Unfortunately for him, the only extra talk about his campaign that I’ve seen this morning are people wondering when he is going to drop out. Brownback was touting his accomplishments last night, but rumor is still that he may go.
Gov. Thompson – Gov. Thompson is likely done. He has said more than once that if he did not finish in the top three, he would drop out. He finished a distant sixth. That may not come today, but I expect him to be gone by next week.
Rep. Tancredo – Will Tancredo say in? I don’t know. He has said that if he did not come in within the top three, it would be hard to continue, but he came in fourth, and made an extremely passionate speech on the stage. I like Tancredo, but I also want him to drop out, possibly to seek the CO Senate seat in 2008.
Rep. Hunter – Rep. Hunter is, apparently, up in the air. His support and organization is virtually nothing, and it is possible that he will discontinue his campaign. However, Hunter has already announced that he is not running for his Congressional seat again, so he really has nothing to loose by staying in.
Rep. Paul – Paul is one of those who I did not expect to ever drop out. However, he placed lower than many thought (or feared) he would. Its up to Paul to decide if he wants to continue. Don’t expect anything before the 20th though, Paul is invited to debate alongside the top tier in Reno. Even if he is going to drop out, I don’t expect him to pass up the chance to be on T.V.
John McCain, Rudy Giuliani – The other members of the top tier who are currently running skipped Ames, likely to avoid an embarresing defeat by Romney. They were not expected to place highly, so they are not hurt by such a poor showing. The bigger danger comes at Caucus time when Iowans might remember this snub.
Sen. Thompon – Thompson has bigger problems than placing low in a straw poll. His support is slipping, and he is still having problems outside of the south. Concerns about his wife, position on abortion, and quesitons about his dedication to the race are all creating headaches for his campaign. His fundraising is not as expected, and he still has at least another three weeks before he announces. Overall, Ames has no real effect on Fred Thompson, but only because it is the least of his worries.