Why Skipping Ames is Smart

Matt Lewis
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Posted: Jun 06, 2007 7:00 PM

Fact: Mitt Romney was always going to win the Straw Poll.  He was willing to spend as much as it took to guarantee that ...

Rudy and McCain had nothing to gain -- and everything to lose -- by participating.

And now, the fact that neither Rudy or McCain (or Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich, for that matter) will participate, means that winning is irrelevant (I'm so glad I haven't purchased my plane tickets, yet!).

You see, campaign strategists don't make decisions to make journalists or bloggers happy.  There is only one question campaigns ask when determining whether or not to do something:  Does it help us win the election?  That's the only criteria they use. 

And in a sense, by not participating, Rudy and McCain have outmaneuvered the Romney campaign. (Romney has undoubtedly already spent a ton of time, talent, and treasure on winning the Straw Poll -- a victory which is now entirely pointless. Rudy and McCain have deprived him of any "bounce" that a victory might have brought him.)  It's brilliant, really.

And by the way, this is from the most respected political journalist in Iowa:

Rudy Giuliani told the Iowa Republican Party on Wednesday he won’t be competing in the party’s big Aug. 11 straw poll in Ames.

Good for him.

A few hours later, John McCain said he wouldn’t compete either.

Good for him.

The Ames straw poll has become a shake-down of candidates that, for some, has replaced the caucuses themselves as a test of viability.

Minor candidates are forced to spend valuable resources on doing well in the poll. That’s because in past cycles single digit candidates who fail to do well in it have sometimes been forced to drop out of the race because their fund-raising dries up.

Giuliani and McCain are big enough that they don’t need the bump they’d get from “doing well.” The downside for Giuliani is his campaign misses the organizational shake-down it would have to give itself in order to compete in the event. That trial run is useful training for caucus night. Giuliani’s campaign, which is slow getting started in Iowa, could use a little hustle .

McCain’s decision means he saves a bunch of money...