Some time, some pushback, some reading, and some conversaton has filled out my thinking on Ames.
Mike Huckabee is clearly the story coming out of Ames for a couple of reasons.
The first reason is that he got a bump. A big one. He will be able to raise money off this, which has been his problem in both Q1 and Q2. He also got headlines. People will take a first or second look at him.
Second, the low turnout suggests that most votes were bought. Mitt Romney spent $2m. Sam Brownback $600k. Huckabee? Not so much. It seems, and no one has raised evidence otherwise, that the Huckabee operation was somewhat spontaneous. On the one hand, this is a tribute to his speaking ability and his message. On the other hand, there is still no evidence that he can organize his way out of a paper bag.
Third, as one reader, who is a friend and a VA operative, put it:
I think that would be a decent indicator of actual support if someone, say Huckebee spent less than Brownback and received more votes. I would suspect the big winner in that chart [dollar per vote] would be Paul or Tancredo.
I don’t know how much the guys in 4th or 5th matter on this, since it puts them in 7th or 8th over all. But dollar-per-vote or dollar-per-earned-media, clearly Huckabee is far and above the winner. He just needs to figure out how to convert to an organization.
So the story continues to be Huckabee. Romney got what he needed, but I don’t think that he can be fully satisfied. And the shakedown in the conservative field will be interesting to watch. My question is going to be: who drops and and who gets whose staff?
UPDATE: USA Today did some analysis of the per-candidate spending, (H/T to Rich Galen):
• Third-place finisher Sam Brownback says he spent about $325,000 to win his 2,192 votes. That’s $148.27 for each vote.
• Second-place finisher Mike Huckabee spent about $150,000 and received 2,587 votes. That’s $57.98 per vote.
• Winner Mitt Romney has not said how much he spent. The reporting in this Washington Post article suggests at least $2 million and possibly more than twice that much. Assuming $2 million for 4,516 votes, that’s $442.87 per vote. But it could top $1,000.