Before too much time goes by, and now that the dust has settled a bit, the results of the Iowa Straw Poll held last Saturday can give us a glimpse into the minds of the voters, and the character of the candidates.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was the hands-down winner, and considering that he spent millions to convince about 4500 Iowans to vote for him, it would have been a crushing defeat if he finished otherwise.
The final tally was as follows:
1. Mitt Romney - 4516 votes, 31%
2. Mike Huckabee - 2587 votes, 18.1%
3. Sam Brownback - 2192 votes, 15.3%
4. Tom Tancredo - 1961 votes, 13.7%
5. Ron Paul - 1305 votes, 9.1%
6. Tommy Thompson - 1,009 votes, 7.3%
7. Fred Thompson - 231 votes
8. Rudy Giuliani - 183 votes
9. Duncan Hunter - 174 votes
10. John McCain - 101 votes
11. John Cox - 41 votes
Romney winning was no surprise, but Mike Huckabee doing as well as he did was a major boost for his campaign. Interestingly, Huckabee spent about $90,000 on his effort in Iowa to the millions spent by Romney.
Also, while Romney paid for an entire fleet of buses to bring his supporters to the polling place, Huckabee paid for none. However, Fair Tax advocates, who are backing Huckabee because he has the foresight to see the wisdom of the Fair Tax, and the backbone to say so, did pay for buses to get his supporters out and voting.
That is what commentators are referring to when they say "grassroots."
If you refer to the list above, you will see that Tommy Thompson, who did actively participate in the Straw Poll, finished 6th. Thompson, no relation to Fred Thompson who did not participate, but was a write in candidate nonetheless, made campaign appearances on his motorcycle, and said that if he didn't finish in the top he would quit. He didn't and he did.
After Tommy Thompson there is a gathering of non-participants, including Fred Thompson, who has not formally declared his candidacy yet, New York City's former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain, both of whom are formally declared candidates. Giuliani brushed off his showing since he wasn't in the race, and McCain has nosedived into an abyss.
But what I find interesting about that grouping is that Fred Thompson finished significantly ahead of Giuliani. That shows me that while Thompson is relatively flat in various polls, since he continues to put off his formal declaration, he still commands a serious presence in the minds of the voters.
Giuliani should have done far better in Iowa, through nothing more than name recognition, and that he didn't even finish first in the non-contenders should be a matter of concern for him as well as a matter of encouragement for Fred Thompson.
Now that Tommy Thompson has quit the race and won't be around to confuse the voters any longer, Fred Thompson may want to reconsider when and how he will formally announce. Fred Thompson's support has flattened, with many potential supporters saying they are tired of waiting for his decision.
When he does announce he will have to do it with flair, and a sustainable flair at that. He may want to take a look at Romney's post Straw Poll media appearances for a clue as to how NOT to proceed.
Romney was interviewed on Fox News Sunday and asked about two recent gaffes in his campaign. One was a revelation that 20 years ago he took a 12-hour motor vehicle trip with his dog confined in a travel kennel on the top of his automobile. Animal lovers don't find that too encouraging, and I would rate his response to pointed questions from Chris Wallace as unsatisfactory. (The dog loved it, and I loved my dog.)
Similarly Romney was asked about his response to a questioner who noted that his (Romney's) sons have not served in the military. Romney responded that they can best serve their country by working on his campaign and getting him elected president.
Flippant. Just like his response to the dog question.
There is a very simple answer to the question of why a candidate or a candidate's relatives aren't or didn't serve in the military. The military is not for everyone and everyone is not needed in the military.
Recruiting is on or above goals, even the higher goals for an expanded military, and less than 1 percent of all Americans are serving. Only about 7 percent of all Americans have ever served. There are many ways to serve the country and they are every bit as necessary as military service.
The only question that a candidate should be concerned with on a numbers-of-voters basis is whether they support the military. The answer to that better be YES and their actions should back up their statements. Roughly 93 percent of all Americans will be on board with that.
Which brings me to Romney's post Straw Poll appearance on the Hannity and Colmes show Tuesday night.
Romney made a reference to 'the other side' when discussing the War on Terror. Liberal Democrat Bob Beckel, who was sitting in for Liberal co-host Alan Colmes, immediately jumped on Romney demanding to know exactly to whom he was referring when he said 'the other side.' Beckel further insinuated the Romney better not be talking about left-wingers who oppose the war, such as Beckel himself, when he said 'the other side.'
Romney should have answered "You better believe I'm talking about you. 'Your side' includes Harry Reid who has declared the war lost, and claimed the Surge was a failure only days after it was officially launched; Barack Obama who falsely claimed our troops are indiscriminately bombing Iraqi villages; Sen. Dick Durbin who compared American troops to Pol Pot's communist murderers; Rep. Henry Waxman who is said to have paved the way for delivery of $600,000 in supplies to terrorists in Fallujah when they were locked in battle against our Marines; John Kerry who has claimed our military personnel are dumb, which is amazing coming from a stooge like him; Presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Clinton who says she regrets authorizing our troops to fight terrorism, and wouldn't do it again, even as they are winning battle upon battle; Rep. John Murtha who falsely alleged that US Marines in Haditha, Iraq were guilty of cold-blooded murder, and refuses to apologize even as charges against them are being dropped; and Nancy Pelosi who has made unauthorized trips to enemy countries, AS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, and supplicated herself before foreign rulers who are actively supporting the terrorists who attacked us.
"You are damn right I am talking about you. Don't give me this 'I support the troops but not the war' crap. You are part and parcel of a segment of the American political landscape that is actively aiding and abetting our enemies in the War on Terror! You are judged by the company you keep and even if you personally didn't help our enemies you are supporting people who do. YES! I AM talking about you.
"You Bob Beckel, and the people you represent, are not patriots. Many of the people you support should be brought up on treason charges. I definitely am talking about you!"
Well, that's what Romney should have said. But he didn't. He waffled. He tiptoed around the question, showed an amazing lack of backbone, and once again showed us the profile of a typical, milquetoast American politician.
No, no, no, of course he wasn't referring to the great and magnificent Mr. Beckel, he just meant those terrorist guys. Yeah, right, what he said.
I don't know what the other polls say, but in my internal polling mechanism Romney dropped like a stone after that segment. We are in a war. We have people in our own country and in our own government who are actively and loudly supporting the 'other side' whether that be Al Qaeda, or resurgent communists.
A candidate who is too skittish and too squeamish to call that situation as it is, rather than worrying about political correctness when we have people trying to kill us, is not equipped for hardball world politics.
The candidate who has backbone, intestinal fortitude, and other appropriate physical and mental characteristics to answer that question honestly without retreat, without apology, is the candidate who will win the hearts and votes of America. With the Iowa Straw Poll behind us and the formal primary votes still months away, we can only wonder at this point in the process whether he exists.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007