Campaign Diary: Ames-ing for Dubya

By Justin Torres | July 7, 2008 | 8:24 PM EDT

( - Spinning Gold from Straw: All the candidates, winners or losers, were out in full force after Saturday's Ames straw poll/county fair/monster truck pull (just kidding), aiming to turn straw poll votes into electoral gold. Steve Forbes: "A funny thing happened on the way to the coronation. The people voted. . . . We have proven tonight that we are the only conservative candidacy that can win." Kyle McSlarrow, chief of Quayle 2000: "Dan Quayle remains fully committed to this campaign." George W. Bush: "Today we shattered every record for the Ames Straw Poll. We met our expectations and we won this straw poll the Iowa way." Of course, as many observers have noted, Bush's percentage of victory is less than both his father's in 1979 and Pat Robertson's in 1987. And while more people voted for him than have ever voted for any previous straw poll candidate, the same is also true of Forbes and Elizabeth Dole. But hey, who's counting?. . . .

Expecting the Best: Well, apparently quite a few people are counting - or at least, were counting on a better performance. While Bush spinmeister Karen Hughes pooh-poohed reports that Dubya's campaign was worried about second-placer Steve Forbes, reminding people that Forbes "spent two to three times as much money as we spent, . . . worked at least twice as long in this state and had a longer period of time to organize," many people have noted that the governor's 31 percent take was not as commanding a lead as his fundraising totals. Dole's chief strategist Tony Fabrizio: "He gave a speech as if he were already president. I thought it was cocky. . . . There wasn't a lot of red meat in it." The Washington Post: "[H]ardly a knockout blow." Jake Tapper at Salon: "Bush and Forbes finished one-two in the Iowa straw poll, and why not? They paid for this circus, after all. . . . Bush no doubt will take some comfort from his victory . . . but he probably shouldn't take too much."

Drop-Outs and Would-Bes: So, after five long years of endless campaigning, America bids Lamar Alexander farewell. Diary, for one, salutes him as a pleasant fellow well met, a true gentleman. (Just so long as he promises not to return. . . .) In his withdrawal speech Monday, Alexander said that while his heart told him to continue, "there is really no realistic way" for him to win. At least Alexander has the good sense to take the hint: Staffers from former Vice President Dan Quayle's team in South Carolina announced that they were jumping ship to John McCain, but even after his abysmal performance (he got less votes than Alan Keyes, for Heaven's sake!) Quayle insists he's staying in. McSlarrow again: "Dan Quayle remains absolutely committed to the idea that his conservative message - and not money - will prevail in this nomination contest."

String 'Em Up: Diary has learned that New Hampshire's Republican chairman has banned dropout Sen. Bob Smith (U.S. Taxpayer's Party-NH) from all GOP functions. Steve Duprey, in a newsletter sent to 6,000 party faithful, said "Because Bob Smith has abandoned our party, he is not to be invited to address any Republican event put on by a town, city, ward, county or state committee. . . . When you have some potential mutineers on board, it never hurts to hang one or two. It makes other potential defectors think twice." Hey, Bob, it isn't personal, it's just professional.

Arresting Performance: Ames fifth-placer Pat Buchanan, on what he would say to Bill Clinton if he were elected president: "Sir, you have a right to remain silent."