Winners and Losers in Ames Ballot Decision
Once again, the Republican Party of Iowa shows off its internal divisions in public, with yesterday's vote on who's on, who's off the ballot for the August 13 Ames straw poll. Several 5-5 tie votes broken by chair Matt Strawn. with another five members already committed to candidates and abstaining. (That in itself is an issue in GOP circles.)
But the decision nevertheless is made, so let's look at the winners and losers.
Michele Bachmann: The decision excluded exactly the people who would have hurt her (Palin and Perry) while including the people who make no difference to her support but will take votes from others (Huntsman, Romney, Gingrich).
Mitt Romney: Last cycle he wasted tons of money on a "win" that turned out to be worthless, since the big story was Mike Huckabee's second place. This way, Mitt gets to do nothing, and any votes he gets are just gravy. Watch carefully for a subtle stealth effort at the last minute, as he tries for an "out of nowhere" (ha!) second, or as he is so fond of saying, silver. But be warned, Mitt: straw poll voters have a history of punishing candidates who don't play.
Sarah Palin: Doesn't have to prove anything, which plays perfectly into her keep them guessing strategy, whether she's runnin' in 2012 or gonna be the white Oprah.
Ron Paul: Has rock-solid support and rabid intensity on his side. Dividing the non-Paul electorate between eight other candidates rather than five moves him up a notch or two in the finishing order. He also gains five or six votes (total) from the exclusion of Gary Johnson.
Jon Huntsman: So he finishes ninth. That hurts him... how? And he doesn't have enough support in Iowa that including him takes votes away from anyone else. Listing Huntsman is a Screw You back at the Screw Iowa candidate.
Newt Gingrich: Let's face it, Newt didn't bid on a space because he's broke. (He prefers spending his money on chartered jets.) At this point he's just running so he can get invited to debates and plug his books. He gets a seat at the table based on his former stature as speaker.
Rick Perry: Having made noise through his "draft" committee about wanting in, he now has to make a strategic decision: The easy route would be to downplay the whole thing. The high risk, high reward strategy: try to prove something with the write-ins. (He would have to get enough to beat Romney.)
Short version: All Paying Customers Other Than Bachmann and Paul. Details:
Herman Cain: He's staked a lot on Ames, in part because he can give the best speech of the six Paying Customers, and he made the loudest noise about wanting to exclude the others. So he's already lost something even before votes are cast.
Tim Pawlenty: Needs a win or a strong second to Bachmann, and the inclusion of fellow "grown-ups" Romney and to a much lesser extent Huntsman costs him votes.
Any Paying Customers Who Finish Behind Newt Gingrich or Write-In: Thaddeus McCotter gets the Duncan Hunter prize for who?!? this cycle. Rick Santorum, despite a handful of endorsements, can't overcome the shame of losing his Senate seat by 20 points, and has seen his niche in the field eclipsed by Bachmann. He's the odds on favorite for the Tommy Thompson Trophy: most likely to quit the morning after.
Gary Johnson, Fred Karger, Roy Moore, Buddy Roemer: Officially declared fringe candidates. Of these Johnson is hurt the most, as a former governor of relatively recent standing. (As opposed to Buddy "Lost A Primary To David Duke" Roemer.) This probably costs Johnson some debate invites. Fred Karger will make a fuss.
The people counting the ballots: Someone will have to tabulate those write-ins. Expect this to delay the results.