The two big losers: Alexander and Dan Quayle. Alexander spent more time in-state than any other candidate and ended up with only 1,428 votes to show for it. Quayle's eighth-place showing left him below even no-hope Republican pundit Alan Keyes, but his campaign manager gamely promised to stay in, if not 'til the last dog dies, then at least until the polls close in New Hampshire.
If you're John McCain, who calls events such as this weekend's Iowa straw poll a sham, the whole thing doesn't matter. If you care a little or more, the big news is who finished third. From a strict cost-benefit standpoint, the best showing may have been that of Elizabeth Dole, who spent less than either top dog George W. Bush or runner-up Steve Forbes and captured a strong 3,410 votes (14.4 percent). While that respectable finish still didn't present a serious threat to George W., it did position her as a strong contender for the veep seat. The top spot, of course, was W.'s to lose, and with more than 31 percent of the vote, he didn't, even if his profligate spending (more than $750,000, which works out to around $100 a vote) provoked some grumbling from sixth-place finisher Lamar Alexander. (Alexander's poor showing and vanishing war chest have reportedly led him to abandon the race.) Second-place man Steve Forbes spent even more, a lavish $2 million that included that ultimate enticement in the brutal Iowa summer, an air-conditioned tent. It may have been worth every penny, since it establishes him as the alternative candidate. His campaign quickly tried to capitalize on the results, pointing out that close to 70 percent of the voters didn't want Bush. Of course, looking at it that way means that 80 percent of them didn't want Forbes.