Real Clear Politics reports, "Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came out on top this weekend at the biggest gathering of Michigan Republicans before their January 15th primary. At the Michigan Republican Leadership Conference, Romney, whose father served as governor of the Wolverine State, took 39% in a straw poll sponsored by The Hotline."
The full results, as reported by RCP:
Romney 39% (383 votes)
McCain 27 (260)
Paul 11 (106)
Giulaini 11 (104)
Thompson 7 (70)
Huckabee 3 (25)
Hunter 1 (12)
Brownback >1 (3)
Tancredo 0 (0)
Uncommitted 2 (16)
Yes, it's just a straw poll, and yes, the late George Romney was a Governor of Michigan; so, yes, the spinners will have a field day down playing another win for Mitt Romney. So long as he keeps on winning, things should turn out just fine.
However, John Hinderaker at Powerline doesn't think so. He explores why Mitt has not caught on nationally with Republicans, and, as near as I could divine, decides that Mitt lacks "charisma thing," to quote former President George H.W. Bush.
Hugh Hewitt responds to Mr. Hinderaker here. It is a typically astute Hewitt analysis. Here are the money quotes:
John did note Romney's leads in Iowa, New Hampshire and Michigan, which is to me the complete answer to John's question --Romney is doing "better" because his plan is rolling out as he had hoped: Romney is betting the campaign on the idea that demonstrated success in consecutive actual votes as opposed to polling will catapult him past Rudy Giuliani and Fred Thompson. (Senator McCain is simply not a factor except as a spoiler, probably for Rudy more than anyone else since Senator McCain's primary appeal is his absolute firmness on pursuing victory in the war.)
So Romney's entire strategy depends upon the early contests. Mayor Giuliani's strategy depends upon surviving weak showings where campaigns have actually been run and concluded and winning in the big states beginning in Florida, but especially New York and California where his general reputation currently overwhelms the campaign efforts of Governor Romney and the star power of Senator Thompson.
The key measures of the effectiveness of the candidates how they are doing in their central challenges: Is Romney establishing the leads he needs in the early contests, and are eith Giuliani or Thompson holding on to their leads in the big, later states. John frets that Romney doesn't seem to be doing well in the national polls when he isn't focusing on the national polls. The key question ought to be is Giuliani or Thompson holding on to or building upon their leads in the big states?
Romney has in fact built the leads in the early states that he needs, and will spend the next three months defending them. He's doing exactly what he set out to do.
But the latest numbers out of California suggest trouble for the Giuliani/Thompson strategy.
It's an interesting time to be a Republican. Fun, even. I just hope we are still having fun in on election night November 2008.