The spin wars continue. Romney of course wants to portray the win as a sign of building popular support. His critics and some pundits say the straw poll is just a voter buy-athon. On Fox News Sunday there was this interchange:
WALLACE: Let’s talk a little bit about the rules of the straw poll, because it isn’t just you come and you vote. In fact, you need to buy a $35 ticket. Somebody described to me a loser as somebody who pays for his own ticket because most of the time campaigns like yours and your competitors pay the $35. Some creative accounting I’m sure from some of your rivals when they added up how much you’d spent on tickets, buses, organization, and a $2 million ad campaign they say you paid about $800 per vote.
ROMNEY: Well, they’re missing one key thing, and that is the advertising was not for the straw poll. People don’t come to a straw poll based on ads. The advertising is helping build the base that I need as somebody that’s not terribly well known in Iowa to get better known, to have a message that connects with people and to get ready for the caucuses. The caucus is what you aim for. What I’m pleased about is that the message that I came Iowa with, that I could strengthen America, strengthen our military, our economy with better good jobs and strengthen America’s families, that message connected with the voters here in Iowa, and I did it on the air. I did it at the grassroots level. I did over 300 events in Iowa over this last year, and a campaign to be successful has to have the resources, the ground team and the message, and we put that together.
Romney rivals were quick to point out that in fact Romney ran ads with a banner inviting straw poll voters to call an 800 number to get free transportation. Kevin Madden, Romney spokesman responded that the ad with the straw poll invite only ran from Tuesday to Friday and that Romney believed the question “was talking about all the ads.” In the Romney camp’s eyes the millions was a worthwhile investment. Madden noted: “If you could see the front pages of every newspaper in Iowa, you’d believe me when I said that every dollar we spent was an investment. The front page of the Des Moines register was incredible.”
My own view: the one with real bragging rights is Huckabee who spent relatively little and did very well. If anyone can claim the straw poll as a sign of true support it is him.