DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN)– The Ames straw poll is over. The candidates are leaving town, some with ribbons of victory and others with tough decisions to make about whether to continue their presidential campaigns.
We’re about to depart Iowa, but before we do we thought we’d take a look at which candidates may not be candidates much longer.
The straw poll in Ames serves a very important purpose. It traditionally helps narrow the field of GOP presidential hopefuls and yesterday’s contest is expected to be no exception.
So, here are some observations of what could happen.
Perhaps the candidate most wounded by last night’s vote is former Wisconsin Gov. and Bush cabinet secretary Tommy Thompson. He did not meet the expectations that he set for himself leading up to the poll. Thompson made it clear that Iowa was the key to his campaign. He came in sixth in the straw poll with only 7.3 percent of the vote. No word yet on whether he’ll abandon his quest for the White House.
While Sen. Sam Brownback finished in the top three, he was greatly overshadowed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s surprise second place finish. The Kansas Republican spent a great deal of money on the straw poll and will likely consider leaving the campaign trail to return full time to the Senate.
Even though California Rep. Duncan Hunter finished behind two opponents who did not even participate in the straw poll, there is no chance he is leaving the race anytime soon.
"This is just a start for us, because this is the first real week we have done in Iowa," Hunter said in an interview with CNN prior to the results being reported. “We look at this as a good start."
As for the winners, Huckabee will use the victory to try and raise money for his reinvigorated campaign and the big winner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, will seek to use the straw poll to continue to build his massive Iowa operation and as a springboard to greater national recognition.
– CNN Deputy Political Director Paul Steinhauser and CNN Political Editor Mark Preston