Sunday, August 12, 2007

Romney wins Ames straw poll--what else is new?

I should say something about Mitt Romney's win in the Ames straw poll. From the De Moines Register:

Ames, Ia. — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney emerged on top at Iowa GOP’s straw poll Saturday in Ames.

The win boosted the former Massachusetts governor’s standing as the party’s frontrunner in Iowa, although attendance at this first show of Iowa campaign strength appeared to fall short of expectations.

Romney, who heavily outspent his opponents preparing for the fundraising event, received 4,516 votes or 31.6 percent.

Roughly 30,000 to 33,000 Republicans attended the state party fundraiser on the Iowa State University campus, short of organizers’ goal of exceeding the crowd of 38,000 who attended the most recent straw poll in 1999.

A factor in the lower turnout was the absence of some of the field’s better-known candidates — former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and likely candidate Fred Thompson, a former U.S. senator from Tennessee.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee had said his campaign’s future depended on a strong showing in Ames. He finished in second place, with 2,587 votes or 18.1 percent. Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas placed third with 2,192 votes, 15.3 percent after campaigning aggressively to be the choice of the Iowa GOP’s influential social conservatives.

And the Chicago Tribune has this interesting little detail regarding the poll:

In many respects, the event appeared to be on a much smaller scale than the last straw poll eight years ago. The 14,302 total ballots cast was down substantially from the 23,685 cast at the last straw poll in 1999, potentially reflecting the unsettled field of Republican candidates as well as what polls have shown to be a large bloc of Iowa GOP voters undecided and dissatisfied with the current list of contenders.

The Republican Party of Iowa made strict assurances about the credibility of its voting procedures, including requiring voters to show a photo ID and dip their thumb in purple ink as was done in Iraq. Still, the results were delayed more than 75 minutes after one of 18 optical-scan machines malfunctioned. More than 1,500 ballots had to be hand counted, said Mary Tiffany, an Iowa GOP spokeswoman.

Mitt Romney spent perhaps $2-3 million in this straw poll, only to get 4,516 out of some 14,000 votes cast--not that good of an investment here. I found it even more interesting in that the votes cast in this poll were substantially smaller than the votes cast in the 1999 straw poll, by around 9,000 votes here. The Republican Party is clearly hampered by the albatross of this sinking Bush presidency. I would also guess that while Mitt Romney may have won this poll, there are probably still a huge number of undecided votes in Iowa--remember the University of Iowa poll showing a third of Republican voters are still undecided. So to me, it appears that this Romney "victory" in the Ames straw poll is very hollow.

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