Brownback, who finished about 400 votes and 3% behind Huckabee, maintained a happy outlook. “The results today are this is a ticket to the caucuses,” he said. “Iowa’s a field of dreams … and I’ve still got the dream.”
Fighting for largely the same voters, Huckabee and Brownback’s campaigns sparred frequently during the weeks leading up to the straw poll. But, with their results combining for a larger percentage of the vote than Romney’s, Brownback said he — and by extension, Huckabee — had room to grow, while Romney may not.
Huckabee only beat Brownback by 400 votes, while Brownback has so far raised $2 million more than Huckabee (who has only raised about $1.3 million). It’s true that Huckabee will get a fundraising boost from his second place finish in Ames, but I suspect Brownback thinks his fundraising edge against Huckabee is more than enough to justify remaining in the race. So I predict both of them will continue to duke it out into the new year, unless Brownback’s fundraising dries up completely. I suspect both of them will have a hard time raising money in any event.
The point that together they received more votes at Ames than Romney did is worth noting: Romney almost certainly spent more money than both of them together. This is yet more evidence that support for Mitt is anemic. What happens if he wins the nomination? He can’t attack Hillary (or Obama) from the Right without them throwing his previously left-wing stances in his face. Will Huckabee and Brownback social voters — it’s a misnomer to call them “conservatives” of any kind — really go for Mitt, or will they, like so many of Iowa’s Republicans did for the Ames straw poll, just stay home?
The GOP is a party utterly without direction or leadership. Romney’s an empty suit. The Religious Right has two dogs in this fight, neither of whom is even remotely fiscally conservative or sane on foreign policy. Giuliani is an authoritarian leftist. And Fred Thompson is a mixture of most of the worst elements of Romney (flip-flopping), Giuliani (authoritarianism), and McCain (campaign-finance reform). It’s not merely that none of these guys has the stature of a Goldwater or a Reagan, none of them even stand for anything remotely like those men. Their antecedents are the likes of FDR, Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and even Jimmy Carter. What a crush of mediocrity!