The Mitt Romney camp will point out over and over that he didn't compete in Iowa so don't read too much into the Ames results
. But the reason he didn't compete was because trying to win and failing spectacularly was considered more damaging than preemptively conceding. The bottom line is Romney threw in the towel because he knew he was doomed.
A lot of the analysis (a generous term considering the peculiar nature of this straw poll) will focus on how damaging a third place finish is to Tim Pawlenty, whose early strategy -- before Bachmann entered the race -- had been to dominate his neighboring Iowa and carry that momentum into South Carolina. But Romney's prospects here are so dim that he just bailed altogether.
I still have trouble seeing what the Romney strategy is. Concede Iowa. Win in neighboring New Hampshire which everyone will discount. And then win in uber-conservative South Carolina? It never has added up.