Ames Straw Poll More Meaningless than Ever

Ames Iowa Straw Poll GraphicAs expected, given that none of the other serious candidates bothered to campaign, Mitt Romney won the Ames, Iowa straw poll. Surprisingly, the runners up were people with no more chance of getting the Republican nomination than you or I.

    1. Romney: 4516 (31.5)
    2. Huckabee: 2587 (18.1)
    3. Brownback: 2192 (15.3)
    4. Tancredo: 1961 (13.7)
    5. Paul: 1305 (9.1)
    6. T. Thompson: 1039 (7.3)
    7. F. Thompson: 203 (1.4)
    8. Giuliani: 183 (1.3)
    9. Hunter: 174 (1.2)
    10. McCain: 101 (1)
    11. Cox: 41 (.1)

    14,302 ballots cast

Historically, the contest has been meaningless, despite the fact that it garners significant media attention. As Dan Balz and Michael D. Shear note on their front page story in today’s Washington Post,

Romney’s victory came against a relatively weak field that did not include Giuliani, Sen. John McCain of Arizona or former senator Fred D. Thompson of Tennessee, and after he heavily outspent those who did compete. Still, the result, with Romney easily outpacing his rivals with 32 percent of the vote, helps elevate him from relative obscurity six months ago to the top tier of the GOP field — despite his relatively low standing in national polls.

Their story is accompanied by the graphic at right. Winning the straw poll has little correlation with getting the nomination and minor candidates often do extraordinarily well. It’s a test of how many people the campaign can pay to bus in to participate, not support.

It’s not inconceivable that Mitt Romney will win the nomination, certainly. But I guarantee that Rudy Giuliani, John McCain, and Fred Thompson will finish with more delegates than Mike Huckabee, Tom Tancredo, and even Ron Paul.

John Cox, however, will get less than one percent of the delegates. Stopped clocks and all that.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Dave Schuler says:

    The lower turnout than 1999 may have some meaning, though.

  2. James Joyner says:

    The lower turnout than 1999 may have some meaning, though.

    I think it means that none of the top three candidates cared enough to bother to participate.

  3. Bithead says:

    And why would they?
    If they’re already leading, would losing Ames by not appearing, change that situation? Why spend the money, therefore, that both Romney and Thompson alluded was required to win?

    Let’s also consider that Iowa has only gotta one round correctly since inception in 78… that of our current president. Everyone.. and I mean everyone else who won Iowa, ended up being an also-run or worse.

  4. Michael says:

    I will go one further and say that John Cox will get NO delegates.

    The rest of the analysis is spot on.