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You Can Say “I’m Skipping Ames,” But You Can’t Skip Ames.

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I note Dean’s and Patrick’s posts below about Mayor Giuliani and Senator McCain “skipping” the Ames straw poll.  Last week pro-Thompson folk were speculating on whether Senator Thompson was going to skip Ames as well.

Looks to me like Team Romney has driven many of its competitors from the field in Ames, and that there’s a whole lot of damage control going on.

No matter who announces what, there’s going to be a straw poll.  The results will be widely reported.  The winner gets a big shot of momentum, just as in years past.  Announcements of “skipping” may be a giant head fake, though I doubt very much if the Romney organization in Iowa will let up in its efforts at all, or it could be an attempt at deflating expectations early on.

The trouble is that all the cable networks, all the talk radio hosts, bloggers and columnists have Ames penciled into their datebooks already.  It is a milestone in the campaign (and perhaps a millstone around the McCain campaign’s neck..)  You don’t win in Iowa by skipping Ames, and you don’t enter the compressed primary season without a good showing in the Iowa caucuses. As the Luntz focus group showed last night, even when the McCain people and their MSM cheering section think their guy had a good night and even when Rudy rightly gets across-the-board applause for style and substance, Romney keeps racking up points.  He’ll rack up lots more in Ames if he wins, and the biggest loser will be John McCain who was expected to merely to show well, but to win there. 

You don’t win nominations by not winning contests –whether key straw polls, caucuses or primaries.

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