Mitt Romney's win in Saturday's Iowa straw poll has divided the political pundits. Either Romney, the candidate favored by Missouri Governor Matt Blunt, has won a major victory or the win does not mean a thing because it was over a weak field that did not include Rudy Giuliani, John McCain or Fred Thompson:
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.
"I think today, the way it worked out, is this is really the defining moment for the base candidate," Romney adviser Tom Rath said. "With Giuliani, McCain and Thompson not here, I would make the argument that this was very definitely a test of who was strong with the base. . . . We think we can expand on that base as the conservative candidate going forward. That keeps us in this game a long time."
Romney's strategists see value in trying to narrow the competition to a race between their candidate and Giuliani, in hopes of setting up a conservative-vs.-moderate contest. But McCain and Thompson are wild cards who could redraw the battle for the nomination by the time of the Iowa caucuses.