Rich Galen

Getting back to the GOP, however, Giuliani and McCain bailing out gives Fred Thompson a wider range of choices. With them in the straw poll he had to either jump in with both feet and try to win, or pretend he was not participating but have ample spin-staff in Ames to portray whatever happened in its best light.

Without them in the straw poll, Thompson is free to say that it has no real meaning and, so, he won't participate, either - thus taking him off the hook if, as is likely, he were to come in second to Romney or third behind someone like Huckabee.

Without any of the three of them looming over the straw poll, Mike Huckabee and the other second tier (which I always knew was not spelled "tear") candidates now have the opportunity to get some time in the spotlight.

The press corps will set the betting line on Romney and tell us what percentage of the votes they think he needs to claim success. The battle now will be for second place and the TV time which will go with it.

Keep in mind, though that the current calendar has the Iowa caucuses being held in mid-January - some five months after the straw poll.

Five months ago was January 8.

Five months ago the Democrats had been in control of the US House and Senate for four days, Joe Biden had announced he was a candidate for President, and the first round of the NFL playoffs had just begun.

See? A lot can happen in five months.

Rich Galen

Rich Galen has been a press secretary to Dan Quayle and Newt Gingrich. Rich Galen currently works as a journalist and writes at