Romney sees top-tier Republicans as weak in Iowa

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the winner of the Republican straw poll in Iowa, indicated Sunday that he views the top-tier GOP candidates as weak in the state that will hold the country’s first caucuses.

“I think if they thought they could have won, they’d have been here,” Romney said when asked about the absence of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainEsper faces tough questions on dismissal of aircraft carrier's commander Democratic super PAC targets McSally over coronavirus response GOP senator suspending campaign fundraising, donating paycheck amid coronavirus pandemic MORE (Ariz.) and former Sen. Fred Thompson (Tenn.), who had not actively sought votes in the straw poll. “The reason they weren’t here wasn’t an indication of their strength in Iowa.”

Romney said he believed that his most serious competitors “looked at the field and said, ‘Gosh, Mitt Romney’s message and his resources and his ground team is so strong, we can’t compete there.’”

Romney, on Fox News Sunday, hailed his victory as an important step in his quest to become the GOP nominee.

“It’s a big start getting ready for the caucuses,” the former governor said of his victory. “You want to do well in the straw poll so that you can build the organization, get your fundraising machine under way, make sure that your message connects with the people of Iowa, because if you can do well in the straw poll, it gives you the real boost that you need to go on to the caucuses.”