GreenMountainPolitics1 has pretty much bought into the conventional "wisdom" that says that the Ames straw poll will be a strategic wash for the top 3 GOP candidates.
One caveat. If Romney ends up losing the straw poll it will be a good size blow to his campaign. But since McCain and Giuliani aren't even competing we just can't see how Romney might possibly lose.
Which must keep the Romneyans up at night. Truly.
But for the "2nd tier" GOP candidates, particularly Mike Huckabee, the Ames straw poll has shaped up to be a political long shot's dream come true.
On the stump, Governor Huckabee had frequently mentioned that competing in the Ames straw poll was the first "big" test of his candidacy.
Which is not all that surprising considering the fact that evangelicals make up a good sized chunk of Iowa caucus goers. And the straw poll was far enough "down the road" to give the relatively unknown candidate time to get out in Iowa and built a organization/reputation.
But now comes a report that Huck is "reconsidering" his decision to "play" in Ames, although he says that as of today he is still very much "in".
Huckabee is concerned that since Giuliani and McCain have dropped out of the Ames straw poll the Gang of 500 no longer takes the contest seriously.
To which we say, Dear Governor Huckabee - The Gang of 500 splits 14 different ways on what is a more attractive color, red or yellow. Listening to us is a very dangerous proposition. Many of us go to work still wearing our pajamas.
Yes, it is true that Team McCain and Team Giuliani (and probably Team Thompson) will downplay the significance of the Ames straw poll. And, they will have a relatively strong argument.
Which will be counter-balanced (to some degree) by Team Romney who will be jumping up and down screaming that the Ames straw poll is the most important event humankind has ever witnessed.
So the top 3 candidates won't take any advantage away from Ames. That narrative is already (more or less) written. And, most importantly to Huckabee, that narrative is already stale.
Which means that the Gang of 500 (who will absolutely be in Ames for the poll, all wisecracks aside) will be looking (begging, pleading, snarling!) for a fresh Ames straw poll narrative to blast across the slow August news cycle.
Might we suggest "Huckabee Places Strong Second In Ames Straw Poll!"
Which is entirely possible in the new Straw Poll environment. Which is a headline that never (ever, ever!) would have been possible for Huckabee if McCain and Giuliani were still competing against Romney in Ames.
And it is a headline (and narrative) that will light a fire under Huck's candidacy unlike anything he has seen to date.
You think they gave you lemons Mr. Huckabee. But they really gave you lemonade.
The 1st tier is calling.