Monday, August 06, 2007

Iowa Straw Poll Looms (August 11th)

The Iowa straw poll has been considered the first real test of strength on the ground for Republican candidates since 1980. No candidate who has finished below third place in the straw poll has ever won the Republican nomination, and only once did the 3rd place finisher win the nomination. This year, several of the media-anointed "top-tier" candidates have declined to really engage in Iowa. They are counting on the national media to carry them by ceaselessly mentioning their names no matter what is happening on the ground.

So does a top two finish in Iowa still mean as much as it did? I assure you, no matter what they say every candidate would like to be one of the top two. Even if they don't want to campaign on the ground there, they want a high finish. If a top two finish does not have the weight that it once did it might be for a reason other than candidates dodging it- it may be that the race for number two is so incredibly close that a number three or number four is only a percent or two away from a top-two finish.

So who will it be? The smart money says Mitt Romney will win it. He has stacked a huge number of chips here. Maybe too many. Anything less than a win for Romney will be seen as a set-back. The real battle will be for second place.

By the polls, Rudy G. should be locked in a duel with Fred Thompson for that second spot, but this straw poll also measures intensity of effort and those two have not made much here. Their share of the 25,000 votes expected to be cast will come from party regulars looking for an "electable" candidate. That will be balanced against those party regulars who are offended that they and John McCain put so little effort into campaigning in their state.

That gives the second tier candidates a chance to zoom by them and into second place. I see three candidates from the second tier as having a chance to get that number two spot- or at least be so close in a number three or four spot that they can argue that it is almost as good as a second place finish. Of those three, the one most able to argue that a fourth place finish should keep him in the race is former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. The reason is that he and another 2nd-tier guy who has gained a little traction in Iowa directly compete for the same voters. That would be Kansas Senator Sam Brownback. If Huckabee can finish ahead of Brownback (whose home state borders Iowa) then Brownback is liable to call it quits. Most of his supporters will gravitate to Huckabee. If you put Brownback and Huckabee's support in Iowa together, you get enough folks to gain traction in what should be a five to seven man field. Huckabee can argue that a fourth place finish for him that knocks out Brownback would result in a second place finish if they had another one in a month.

Congressman Tom Tancredo is another one that I think will surprise in Iowa. There are a lot of Iowa Republican Caucus goers who are not put off by the Congressman's threat to use nuclear weapons on Mecca should Islamic extremists detonate a nuke on our soil. Sure he is polling low, but some folks who don't mind nuking Mecca are still a little reluctant to tell a telephone pollster that they don't mind nuking Mecca. I look for Tancredo to make a serious run for that second place spot.

The third person that might sneak in there is the wildcard, Texas Congressman Ron Paul. Paul has zero support from the Republican establishment in Iowa and little shows up in polls of likely caucus attendees. Still, I am getting signals that his under-the-radar campaign could push hard for a 2nd place spot in the straw poll. The key for him will be getting new voters who have never before attended this event to do so. Paul could surprise the experts again since he is drawing new voters to Republican events and this event is a measure of intensity of support as well as volume of support.

Your comments/prediction? (don't count unless you put your real name on them!)

6 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

George HW Bush finished third in 1988.

5:32 PM, August 06, 2007  
Blogger Mark Moore (Moderator) said...

Thank you for that correction.

5:59 PM, August 06, 2007  
Blogger rob_star said...

I predict that Republicans across the country will wake up and realize that Ron Paul is the only honest man left in their party and vote in overwhelming numbers for him in Iowa and N.H., then he will sweep through the rest of the country on a wave of libertarian, freedom loving votes.
Just kidding, you guys will, of course, nominate a facist like Rudy or even possibly another intellectual midget like Thompson.
At this point, the Vegas line is Thompson 4:1 as the favorite.

4:16 PM, August 07, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I could argue with you on that one Rob, but I don't think I can.

7:13 AM, August 08, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rob, don't act like Republicans are the only ones who will suffer under the next socialist new world order boob that takes the stage. And the stage ain't looking any better on the Dem side, either.

We're ALL in trouble.

12:29 PM, August 08, 2007  
Anonymous ArFreeSpeech said...

Mark Moore:
I am so sorry to have offended your southern sensibilities by discussing the Washington County Militia's connection to the Ku Klux Klan. Maybe you can choose to engage in an open debate about racism, fair play and true 2nd amendment issues. Your organization has a long way to go with your choices of who to support and how supporting Ku Klux Klan members has a backlash beyond belief in your political aspirations.

6:39 AM, August 13, 2007  

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