Yesterday, I wrote about Mitt Romney’s Ames effect wearing off in Iowa. I am pretty sure that I missed the story. Gallup Poll’s Frank Newport had the first hint:

I disagreed. In fact, one thing the national polls have shown us is that Mitt Romney was unable to translate his victory in the straw poll in Iowa in early August into a sustained lead at the national level.  Romney was treading along at 8% of the national Republican vote in two polls in July and early August, then jumped to 14% in our first August poll after the straw poll.  Then it was back to 10% by early September and now at 7% in our last September poll. No sustained bounce.

Does this national trend matter?  Well, I was interested in a Washington Post piece today by political reporter Dan Balz, who notes that Romney is slipping in polls in New Hampshire and says:  “What the latest round of polling suggests is that Romney has not been successful in translating his victory in the Iowa straw poll last August into additional support there or in New Hampshire.”

No national bounce. No Iowa bounce. And at the end of the month, we can see an actual decline.  Just look at the RCP averages in Iowa, New Hampshire and nationally. Just before September 11th in all off these Romney experienced a sharp, sharp decline in all of these polls. In Iowa, it is less pronounced, perhaps because he had the highest numbers with lots of very strong polls to average in. In any case it is clear.

So what happened? I think three factors.

First, I was talking last week to an organizer in Iowa who is working from one of the second tier candidates. He said that when his candidate started calling in May, people said, "Call me back in the fall. That’s when I will start paying attention."

What happened in the fall, translated as Labor Day? Mitt Romney had a miserable, miserable performance at the September 5th debate, that I was present for. About the only person say that Romney did well was Jason Bonham, one of the founders of…

Second, Fred Thompson got in the race. It is clear that Thompson is fighting over the same conservative votes that Romney is. Except that Thompson has appeal to church-going Protestants that Romney does not.

Third, the story of September was the war and the party rallying behind the President. This made it hard for Romney to move his own message. And it allowed the contrast to be drawn with Romney.

So what happened? September was when the game started. And Romney started by falling on his face. Literally, the next day, Thompson got in. And then the only wind that blew was from Iraq, so Romney had trouble getting his sails back up.

I think that this is a corollary to the Mr. September narrative for Giuliani that Jonathan Martin so clearly articulated. So in September, John McCain became the comeback kid.  Fred Thompson got in. Rudy Giuliani was Mr. September. And Mitt Romney struggled.

That’s a tough beginning of the race.