“Ringmaster” Romney reaps reward

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney got a thank you note tonight from the Republican Party of Iowa. 

Iowa GOP spokeswoman Mary Tiffany issued the following statement:  "The Republican Party of Iowa appreciates the Romney for President Campaign’s statement regarding the Iowa Straw Poll.  Governor Mitt Romney clearly understands the importance of the Straw Poll and the role the event and its voters play in the political process.  In light of today’s news, we are glad to hear Romney is keeping his word to participate in the Straw Poll and that he has made the wise decision to stay in the race."

What "Romney" statement?  From Kevin Madden, spokesman for Governor Romney: “Governor Romney has put in the time, built the organization and communicated his message to the voters of Iowa.  It’s a message focused on bringing conservative change to Washington, and it is resonating with Iowa voters because it matches his record of accomplishment as governor.

“Our plan all along has been to play in the Iowa straw poll, and that hasn’t changed. Campaigns that have decided to abandon Ames are likely doing so out of a recognition that their organizations are outmatched and their message falls flat with Republican voters in Iowa.

“It looks as if we just beat those campaigns in Iowa two months earlier than we had planned on beating them.”

After the jump, a review of all of today’s Straw Poll fun.

Giuliani campaign holds 11 am central time conference call with Iowa reporters to announce Giuliani will not "play" in the Straw Poll.  Transcription of conference call.   Radio Iowa story.

McCain campaign issues news release at about 4 pm central to say McCain won’t play either. Copy of release.

Republican Party of Iowa responds.  Transcript of phone interview with RPI executive director Chuck Laudner.  Radio Iowa story.

Romney campaign holds 7 pm central time news conference at Iowa campaign headquarters to announce Romney will still "play" in Straw Poll.  Doug Gross, Rommey’s Iowa campaign chairman, talks with Radio Iowa by phone shortly afterwards.

Henderson "Chuck Laudner said this is a kick in the shins to the party.  As a former candidate and a former party insiders, do you think this is something that will resonate with rank-and-file Republicans or do you think this is something that only party insiders will pay attention to?"

Gross:  "You know, Iowans are very proud of their role in the Caucuses and it goes back to the 1970s.  We’ve had the Straw Poll since 1979 and if you take a look at it, any of the candidates who have skipped the Straw Poll have not done well in the Caucuses, so I think what you ought to look at it the potential implication of this on those candidates for the Caucuses and at the same time I think Iowans are concerned that if some candidates are skipping the process that we’ve had that they’re to some extent not respecting the entire Iowa process and it does, indeed, potentially hurt the party and I think that’s why Chuck was concerned."

If you’re keeping score at home, sources indicate Fred Thompson may deal himself "in" the Straw Poll mix. Newt Gingrich has already said he’ll be there.  Fictional White House Deputy Communications Director Sam Seaborn of "The West Wing"/fictional presidential candidate Robert McCallister of "Brothers and Sisters"/actor Rob Lowe told reporters in West Des Moines today that he might attend the Straw Poll.  Oh, and Lowe killed a goldfinch today.  Not with his bare hands. With one of his golf shots.  Read the story from Radio Iowa’s Pat Curtis — you can hear Lowe’s Q&A with reporters by clicking on the audio link at the bottom of the story. 

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About O.Kay Henderson

O. Kay Henderson is the news director of Radio Iowa.