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June 10, 2011

Mitt Romney To Skip Ames, Iowa Straw Poll

Slow day, so a little inside baseball/wild speculation stuff.

First, Mitt won the Ames Straw Poll last time and all he got for it was a T-shirt and an ass kicking by Huckabee in the actual caucus. Fool him once....

Mitt Romney's aides announced amid the Newt Gingrich campaign breakdown that he'll be skipping the Ames Straw Poll, a crucial test of organizational strength in Iowa and an event he spent a hefty $1 million on in 2007, only to lose the caucuses.

Mitt Romney's aides have done a delicate dance managing expectations about how strongly he'll play in Iowa, and the argument against competing at Ames for him is his already-high name recognition and current poll standing in the state. To lose at Ames would raise doubts about his grassroots support and create a real perception problem.

Of course the thing Iowans care about even more than Ethanol is being sucked up to every 4 years and the state GOP chair doesn't sound too happy.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn issued the statement below following Governor Romney’s announcement that he will not participate in the the Ames Straw Poll.

“I’ll leave it to the pundits and voters to assess the wisdom of skipping an event of tremendous importance to tens of thousands of Iowa Republicans and caucusgoers.”

“More than ever, Iowa Republicans are energized and motivated to utilize the Ames Straw Poll as a catalyst toward building a 99-county organization to deny President Obama a second term.”

Mind you, the Ames Straw Poll is so important 2 of the 5 winners have actually gone on to win the Iowa Caucus. McCain skipped it last time and he seemed to do ok in the end. Sure he didn't do well in the Caucus but let's be honest, 5 minutes after it's over, everyone forgets Iowa exists anyway for the next 3 years.

Skipping Ames does make you wonder if Mitt is really going to compete in Iowa or cede it to Pawlenty or even better from his standpoint, someone like Cain or Bachmann.

Allah asked yesterday why Mitt would stick to his Ehtanol pander if he's not going to compete in Iowa. I have a theory. In '08 Romney got killed for pandering and flipping. This year he's sticking by Ethanol, man made global warming and RomneyCare. It's almost as if he's flipped on being a flipper and now is the guy who is "standing by tough but unpopular positions". Consider it a meta-flip.

Poor Mitt, always fighting the last battle, just a split second out of rhythm with the beat of the moment. He's damned if he does, damned if he doesn't.

A related horse-race thought: Lots of folks are either excited or at least intrigued by the idea of Rick Perry entering the race. That's not surprising considering the searching for a White Knight that has gone unanswered by the likes of Mike Pence, Mitch Daniels and so far Paul Ryan, Chris Christie and Sarah Palin.

The thing is, beyond some hardcore conservative activist types, do a lot of GOP voters know anything about Perry? I gather from Texas folks he's not another W. but that will the initial impression for a lot of folks. He'll have to deal with that while making the case for himself.

So while there will be some initial excitement when/if Perry gets in the speculation will be how this impact Romney. Personally, I think it helps him. Mitt is at this early stage the front runner but he's not exactly loved. A lot of his strategy seems to rely on the idea of being the last man standing that most people can agree on. The greatest danger to him is that a clear "Not Mitt" emerges early that people can coalesce around. Perry, at least initially, will simply be another candidate to fracture the "not Mitt" base. From Romeny's perspective, the more the merrier for the longest time possible. He's got the name recognition and the money to slog it out from February to June across the country. Right now, no one else does.

Standard disclaimer: I'm not a Mitt Romeny guy, just thinking about what's going on.

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posted by DrewM. at 11:39 AM

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