About this time next year, if recent history is a guide, we'll be poring over the entrails of the first blood-and-guts contest of the 2008 presidential campaign.
Not a primary, not even a caucus, merely a pay-to-play straw poll that leads to nary a national convention delegate. But what a straw poll, if you're a Republican with designs on the White House.
Dedicated Iowa Republicans pour into a coliseum on the Iowa State University campus at Ames and using tickets/ballots, most often purchased in vast lots by well-heeled presidential campaigns, set the tone of the contest to come.
Yeah, it's kind of phoney (however great a state party fund-raising tool) and has a spotty record in predicting who will eventually be the national nominee. But just like Iowa's real first-in-the-nation caucuses (early the following year), the straw poll is a winnowing event that tests each candidate's organizational ability and, ultimately, traction with voters.
The straw poll is important enough that the political action committee of one prospective Republican candidate, Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, recently held a meeting with Iowa activists at Ames. "Wink-wink," said a Romney strategist.
Hines further comments about Romney's good work in Iowa . . .
Romney has been plowing enough ground in Iowa, that Republicans of vastly varying stripe have begun mentioning him just as soon as they posit that Sen. John McCain of Arizona is the league leader among prospective contenders, if only on name recognition. (That's not the case in a new Iowa poll, which I'll get to in a minute.)
Romney has even drawn the discerning eye of David Yepsen, who as political columnist of the Des Moines Register is Iowa's most important campaign commentator.
"Of all the 2008 Republican presidential candidates making the rounds in Iowa, none is doing better than Mitt Romney," Yepsen reported to readers last month. With that sort of review, Romney has also, according to Iowa politicos, roused the attention of the McCain camp.
Then, he gets into the low-down on the McCain's camp current strategy for questioning Romney:
The most interesting tidbit I picked up in calling around Iowa is that the McCain operation, which loves for its guy to be seen as a maverick, appears to be playing a traditional, old-fashioned game in the politically important state: questioning Romney's position on abortion.
Fortunately . . .
Ted Miller, a spokesman for NARAL Pro Choice America, said his organization considers ... Romney as "anti-choice."
I never thought anything good would come out of NARAL . . . but that quote is pretty good!
For those interested in Romney's history on the issue of abortion read this link
Jason Bonham at Illinoisians for Mitt has some interesting commentary on this story as well . . . hat tip to him for picking it up!