"Life Support" is a modern medical marvel that can sometimes tide people through horrible acute illnesses/traumas until their own organ systems kick back into gear. Unfortunately, the VAST majority of people on "Life Support" are simply artificially and temporarily avoiding imminent death. This is the decided direction of the Rudy Giuliani and John McCain campaigns as evidenced today by their decisions to not participate in the Ames Straw Poll on August 11th. They are attempting to delay their Iowa embarrassment and continued downward slide from August until the actual caucus in Janurary.
First, a primer on the Ames Straw Poll (ASP). Further information about the poll can be found here.
Rudy Flip-Flopped on ASP:
Apparently multiple times according to the Republican Party of Iowa
"Regarding Giuliani's decision, Laudner said, 'He was in, he was out, he was in, now he's out. Who knows. Maybe he'll change his mind again. Regardless, his name will be on the Straw Poll ballot in August.'"
Rudy was planning/hoping to participate in the ASP.
We are going to take all the resources that were budgeted towards the Straw Poll and we are going to use them to win the Caucus in January.
They had a budget for it . . . they were planning on it . . .
From the Krusty Konservative Blog
Rudy is calling likely caucus goers and asking them the following questions:
1. Who are you supporting for President?
2. Are you Pro-Life or Pro Choice?
3. Are you planning to attend the Iowa Straw Poll?
I think that a really weird set of questions, and I’m sure they are not going to like the results of question 2.
McCain's flip-flop is even worse:
I was personally at a McCain event a few weeks ago and one of his staffers asked me if I was planning/wanting to support McCain at the Ames Straw Poll. The Ames Straw Poll was stressed publicly to the audience by his local organizers before he arrived at the event. Everyone who signed into the event was given the opportunity to check a box saying that we would support McCain at the straw poll.
McCain has been going full-bore here in Iowa (great staff, lots of events, lots of money, etc . . . ). He definitely has the team to deliver . . . if they just had a better candidate.
Krusty ranked the Iowa Campaign Staffs of all the GOP candidates just 5 weeks ago, and guess who came out on top:
To the rankings!
1. John McCain
Sen. McCain has assembled the best staff in the state. The staff konsists of three konsultants and 15 staff members. What puts McCain over the top is the experience of their konsultants. Ed Failor, Jr. and Karen Slifka have a wealth of caucus experience, which is invaluable when it comes to teaching young field staffers how to organize for a caucus. The field staff is young and hard working, which is important because I’m sure that Failor and Slifka will be demanding some krazy hours out of them.
What is McCain's excuse for not competing at Ames? ABC reports.
In 1999, McCain called the straw poll a "sham" that contributes to "the pessimism and the cynicism" Americans feel about the role of money in politics.
Until Wednesday, the Arizona Senator was planning on competing in the straw poll this time around.
But hours after Giuliani's decision, McCain campaign manager Terry Nelson announced, "In light of today's news, it is clear that the Ames Straw Poll will not be a meaningful test of the leading candidates' organizational abilities, so we have decided to forgo our participation in the event."
"Straight-Talk" Translation: "Rudy opting out gives me an excuse to get out and avoid a similarly embarrassing loss to Romney." Did you notice how they announced this JUST HOURS after Rudy annouced? Is that enough time to evaluate the situation, consult the Iowa staff, consider the loss of already devoted resources, and make a wise decision? Or had the decision been made already and they jumped on the anti-Iowa bandwagon.
Also, it cannot go unnoted this completes the circuitous positions that McCain was Against the ASP, before he was For the ASP, before he was Against the ASP. Add that to the ever-growing list of McCain's Flip-Flops.
According to ABC News:
Hoffman was a "little surprised" about Giuliani's noontime decision and "very surprised" about the McCain decision which came less than five hours later.
Chuck Laudner, the Iowa Republican Party's executive director, said of Romney, "I think McCain was the one guy who was going to keep pace with him."
Laudner, who says the Iowa GOP did not receive a heads up from either Giuliani or McCain, says don't believe the Giuliani and McCain camps when they claim that they are serious about winning the state's caucuses in January.
"You can't compete in the caucuses without competing in the Straw Poll," said Laudner of the contest which raises money for the state party. "It's a big part of what makes the Republican Party of Iowa tick."
The Real Story: Romney Revving up and Flexing Muscles in Iowa . . . "Front-runners" Running Scared:
The above is a WELL RESPECTED POLL. In it, Romney blows away the field for "likely Ames Straw Poll" attendees.
Romney's 34% is 3% more than Giuliani and McCain COMBINED.
Romney's 34% is equal to T. Thompson, Brownback, Huckabee, Gilmore, Paul, Tancredo, Hunter AND ALL THE "UNDECIDEDS" COMBINED.
Other polling shows things going Mitt's way here in Iowa:
The Des Moines Reg poll (above) showed him at 30% among likely caucus goers while Rudy had 17% and McCain had 18%.
The most recent Iowa poll shows Romney BLOWING AWAY the "front-runners". Romney has 31% while Rudy and John ARE BOTH IN SINGLE DIGITS (McCain 9%, Rudy 8%)
Other recent polling in Iowa show Romney leading or tied here, here, and here. (AND ALL OF THEM SHOW HIM ROCKETING UP OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS . . . even the outlier ARG poll--the firm which amazingly has McCain leading in Iowa, NH, and SC).
This over-whelming body of evidence show that Giuliani and McCain decided to drop out of the ASP as soon as their Iowa poll numbers began to drop. Instead of fighting through their dips and going toe-to-toe they've opted for the coward's option. They can't win, so they won't even play. I expected more from men who are rightly considered by most as modern American heroes.
I think they'll both lose some of their Iowa endorsements by pulling this stunt. Romney stands to pick up some of these endorsements. Both campaigns are, in effect, writing off winning the Iowa Caucus in Janurary. If they can't obtain and/or organize supporters for the ASP what is going to change to suddenly make them competitive a few months later?
That's why I was surprised to see Rudy's team say:
"I think what's important to note is that we are 100 percent committed to winning the Iowa Caucuses in January . . . I think some people may misinterpret it sort of as us not playing 100 percent in Iowa. We are 100 percent playing in Iowa. You will see the mayor there early and often and you will see us spending a great resources to make sure we win the Caucus in Iowa.
Well, they better get with it then . . . especially when Tommy Thompson got more people at his event in the same city on the same day/time that national figure and "front-runner" Giuliani:
When any two kampaigns visit the same kommunity on the same day, people are going to kompare the events, especially when the events are in Iowa’s second largest city. Tommy Thompson had 150 at his event, while the presumed frontrunner, Rudy Giuliani only had around 100. Rudy’s poor showing is a good example of the problems he is having in Iowa.
The quotes that Rudy is 100% dedicated to winning the Iowa caucus will be nice to pull out when he comes in a distant 3rd or 4th place . . . now THAT will be hard to spin.
But is Rudy's team "double-speaking" about the ASP? Jim Nussle of Rudy's Iowa team said of the ASP TODAY:
In fact, I'm going to encourage people to go to it, Giuliani supporters to go to it. Go to it and listen to the candidates. Have fun. Make a day of it. Enjoy it, you know, network with other people,
So they tell everyone to go, and when they get like 10% with no money invested they'll call it a "huge victory". Wait and see.
Chuck Laudner got it right:
Chuck Laudner, executive director of the Republican Party of Iowa, had these things to say about Rudy Giuliani and John McCain deciding to skip the party's Straw Poll in Ames on August 11th:
"Laudner: “They must not have felt...that their chances were not very good to win, place or show,” Laudner said. “...This event helps us pay for Caucus Night and all those activities, plus it helps us fund our state house and senate races…It’s a kick in the shins, or a little higher, right to the Iowa Republican Party.”
. . .
Henderson: What's your message to those two fellas?
Laudner: "It's a missed opportunity. I mean over a third of the Caucus-goers are going to be at that event and you're not just speaking to those folks, you're speaking to the entire country. It's a national event and it's the largest event, Republican, ever anywhere and to skip it means that they must not have felt...that their chances were good of win, place or show."
Henderson: "But their names are still going to be on the ballot.
Laudner: "Absolutely. It's not up to the candidates to decide. We decide as Iowa Republicans who we want the next president of the United States to be."
Henderson: Congressman Nussle has been calling this a circus and saying all sort of things. Has he sort of negated any chance he might have of seeking public office in Iowa again?
Laudner: "Well, I don't think he's made any friends today. This event helps us pay for Caucus Night and all those activities, plus it helps us fund our state house and senate races. That's how this event was created years and years ago and this year, much more than that, it was going to be the showcase of the 'big tent' and it was going to be that event brings all of these people in. Every one of these candidates has a coalition that they could bring in that maybe otherwise wouldn't come
Caucus-goers are largely GOP activists/social conservatives who will not think kindly of Rudy and John's antics here. They are shooting themselves in the foot.
From ABC News:
"Maybe the handwriting was on the wall," Iowa Republican Party Chairman Ray Hoffman tells ABC News when asked about the impact Mitt Romney's organizational strength had on the Wednesday announcements from the Giuliani and McCain campaigns that they will not invest resources in the Iowa Republican Party's Aug. 11 Straw Poll in Ames.
"Mitt Romney, no doubt, is probably the biggest player in the state," said Hoffman.
In another strong move, Romney's campaign released the following today:
Boston, MA – Today, Romney for President spokesman Kevin Madden issued the following statement on the Ames Straw Poll:
"Governor Romney has put in the time, built the organization and communicated his message to the voters of Iowa. It's a message focused on bringing conservative change to Washington, and it is resonating with Iowa voters because it matches his record of accomplishment as governor.
"Our plan all along has been to play in the Iowa straw poll, and that hasn't changed. Campaigns that have decided to abandon Ames are likely doing so out of a recognition that their organizations are outmatched and their message falls flat with Republican voters in Iowa.
"It looks as if we just beat those campaigns in Iowa two months earlier than we had planned on beating them."
To which the Republican Party of Iowa already responded in resounding support of Romney sticking to his guns and is committed to the ASP (but I thought HE was the "flip flopper!"):
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney got a thank you note tonight from the Republican Party of Iowa.
Iowa GOP spokeswoman Mary Tiffany issued the following statement: "The Republican Party of Iowa appreciates the Romney for President Campaign's statement regarding the Iowa Straw Poll. Governor Mitt Romney clearly understands the importance of the Straw Poll and the role the event and its voters play in the political process. In light of today's news, we are glad to hear Romney is keeping his word to participate in the Straw Poll and that he has made the wise decision to stay in the race." [CAN YOU FEEL THE LOVE?!?!?]
. . .
Doug Gross [major Iowa Romney campaign man]: "You know, Iowans are very proud of their role in the Caucuses and it goes back to the 1970s. We've had the Straw Poll since 1979 and if you take a look at it, any of the candidates who have skipped the Straw Poll have not done well in the Caucuses, so I think what you ought to look at it the potential implication of this on those candidates for the Caucuses and at the same time I think Iowans are concerned that if some candidates are skipping the process that we've had that they're to some extent not respecting the entire Iowa process and it does, indeed, potentially hurt the party and I think that's why Chuck was concerned."
Rudy's Master Plan?
Some postulate that Rudy has the plan of Super-Tuesday/Large-State focus. That he can afford to lose the early small states. However, I worry about a move to this system. Small states allow the candidates to really get to know people and vice-versa. This so called "Retail politics" have served us well, and I worry about a cadidate with a master plan to mount a huge TV campaign in large states as a means to become president without the personal contact of retail politics.
Two issues remain:
1) What will be Fred Thompson's play. I think this opens a huge door for him and he would have a decent excuse to not win it, but he could probably get 2nd with a concerted effort. Would this be important to him or does he really want "to run a different kind of campaign"
2) What does this mean for the second-tier candidates? If Fred bows out too will the #2 and #3 finishers be emboldened? Will they be the big story?
The Bottom Line:
Some pundits say that Giuliani's and McCain's move now renders the Ames Straw Poll "irrelevant." However, the truth of the matter is that Giuliani and McCain are quickly rendering themselves and their campaigns "irrelevant" by showing that they know they can't compete with Romney in Iowa.
Rudy wants Iowa, McCain needs Iowa, Iowa wants and needs Romney!