Taking Ames

Ron Paul has finished fifth in the Ames straw poll, behind Romney, Huckabee, Brownback, and Tancredo, but ahead of Tommy Thompson, Fred Thompson, Giuliani, Hunter, McCain, and that Cox guy.  Results here.

McCain’s abysmal showing suggests just how far his campaign has collapsed. Even though he said he wouldn’t compete, he’s still a big enough name and has had enough of a presence in the state that he should have finished better.  He’ll hang on for a while, but I predict he’ll drop out sooner rather than later.  Tommy Thompson has been euthanized.  Duncan Hunter, well, as someone said elsewhere, you have to be in before you can really get knocked out — he’s an asterisk either way.

There’s no groundswell of support for Fred Thompson, who has underperformed at every stage of his non-campaign, from his frequently delayed launch to his playing musical chairs with non-campaign campaign managers (three so far) to his lackluster fundraising.  The bloom is off that particular turdblossom.

As I mentioned on the LRC blog, my guess is that Brownback is too megalomaniacal to drop out, even though he and Huckabee clearly draw from the same big-government Christian Right demographic and Huckabee is the more appealing of the two.  If Brownie were to pack it in, the Huckster might have a shot at nipping the heels of Rudy and Romney.  Huckabee is the big winner here, since a lot of people, including me, expected Brownback to beat him.  Romney’s win, of course, is no surprise, and it cost him dearly.  Romney, here and at CPAC, has yet to win a fight he hasn’t paid for. Of course, he has plenty of cash to burn, so it may be a nomination-winning strategy for him.  Then Hillary would rip his heart out and eat it in November ’08.

It’s a little sad to see the bat-poop crazy Tancredo getting more votes than Paul, but Tancredo had more riding on this straw poll and more resources poured into it.  I know Tanc is in this race to represent the cause of immigration restriction — though the fact that he finishes behind the open-borders Brownback doesn’t exactly attest to the power of the restrictionist vote — but doesn’t he realize that his bloodthirsty nuttiness only discredits his own cause?

A higher finish in the straw poll would have been a big boost to Paul, showing that his internet support can translate to boots on the ground. A lower finish would have jeopardized his campaign — as it is, he beat Tommy Thompson, who was trying all-out to place in the top two, and he gathered a respectable amount of support without spending the kind of time and money that Romney, Huckleberry Brokeback, and presumably Tancredo had to invest.  The #5 placing won’t dampen any of the enthusiasm Paul has generated with traditional conservatives, libertarians, independents, and Taft Republicans, and he didn’t need a higher finish to keep raising money, either.  Huckabee and Brownback are going to have trouble raising contributions against the Mitt Giuliani juggernaut, but Paul, as a real republican alternative to their imperial ambitions, will continue to be able to live off the land, so to speak. His is an insurgent campaign, and it doesn’t need to win traditional, set-piece battles to fight a war of attrition.

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