Giving credit where credit is due, the bottom line is that millions of Americans are waking up to newspapers and television reports today with the headline being some variation of “Romney Wins” so in that sense the results were undeniably positive for Romney. Going into the 2008 presidential sweepstakes Romney was less well known than his major rivals, and he set forth a strategy of focusing a massive amount of attention on the early states, and it paid off yesterday.
With that said, the stories attached to the headlines will all add certain caveats, about the fact that his top three competitors were no shows and about the low turnout. Romney did win comfortably, but given that he spent more money to win this event than his rivals raised in the first six months of the year, one might have expected a devastating Ivan Drago over Apollo Creed type win, but he didn’t get it. Far from staking an undisputed claim of being the choice of Iowa social conservatives, Romney will now have a fight on his hands with Mike Huckabee for the hearts and minds of religious voters, and that’s not even taking into account Fred Thompson’s expected entry into the race next month. And Fred gets to enjoy the fact that he did the best of the non-competitors, even though he isn’t running.
For Rudy Giuliani, we can’t say now whether or not his decision to skip Ames was a wise won. On the positive side, it did deny Romney a more meaningful victory while simultaneously allowing Rudy to save money and use it to beef up his organization nationally. It’s already a forgone conclusion that he’ll win New York and New Jersey, and he also has substantial leads in California and Florida. Given his overall standing, Rudy didn’t need an Ames straw poll win like Romney did. On the other hand, Iowans are touchy about their straw poll, and so his snub will no doubt hurt his chances in the caucus, and if Romney gains enough momentum in the early states, Rudy may be out of serious contention by the time Feb 5. rolls around.
In summary, what’s pretty clear is that Romney and Rudy are both effectively executing their strategies for winning the Republican nomination, based on their strengths and weaknesses. We just don’t know whose strategy is better.