One way of viewing the result of the straw polls is how it re-organizes the field. For a while, at least, Mike Huckabee can claim a pseudo first-tier status, compared in the same breath as the big-4. The Wall Street Journal presented this this way:
Should Mr. Huckabee capitalize on his second-place showing here Saturday to get a second look from demoralized Republicans unhappy with their choices — and to get much-needed funding — the repercussions could reshuffle the party’s contest for its 2008 nomination. Social conservatives, who have come to dominate the Republican party, could decide the candidate they have been looking for has been in the race the whole time, languishing at the back of the pack with little money to promote himself.
That wouldn’t be good news for Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback, who likewise has struggled to be that candidate, or for actor and former senator Fred Thompson of Tennessee. Mr. Thompson’s still-undeclared candidacy has been propelled by the argument that he could fill the perceived void of a true conservative,
This creates a real problem for conservatives. Social conservatives are going to have to pick between three "first tier" social conservative candidates: Huckabee, Mitt Romney, and Fred Thompson. The LA Times framed this as a challenge for Romney, although Fredheads and others would object that they are the true front-runners for this mantle:
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has fought for months to unite social conservatives behind his bid for the Republican presidential nomination.
But his weekend victory in an Iowa straw poll only underscored the fierce competition he still faces for conservatives who remain wary of the GOP’s top White House contenders.
"Clearly, no one has consolidated the conservative vote," said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist unaligned in the presidential race.
Ayres argues that Romney’s front-runner status is a little illusory:
Romney has banked heavily on Iowa. By spending far more on TV ads here than any other Republican, he has driven up his poll numbers. But, said strategist Ayres, "all of that can change when the other candidates go on the air, or when a candidate as potentially popular as Fred Thompson gets in the race."
Ed Morrissey views this as having more potential for hurting Thompson, however you get the sense from reading Ed that he doesn’t take Romney that seriously:
If that momentum comes from anywhere, it may come from Fred. The former Tennessee Senator has been buoyed by conservative dissatisfaction with the current crop of front-runners.
It will be interesting to see if this frame develops