Iowa Reduces The Not-Mitt’s By Two

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

Iowa has a long history of not predicting the Republican nominee, yet it’s order as first “real” votes in the GOP delegate selection process makes it an event which must be covered. It’s timing, however, on the evening of the first business day after a long holiday season makes it difficult to gage what is happening in the days leading up to the votes.

The reality is that the race will change dramatically over the next week. It will be shaped by the news coverage and analysis of what happened, and what the collective punditry projects what will happen over the next two months. Wednesday, the circus moved to New Hampshire to begin anew.

The reality of Iowa itself is that it won’t change much. This has long since been a race between Mitt Romney and the not-Mitts. Tuesday night in Iowa, the field of not-Mitts was reduced by two.

Rick Perry is headed back to Texas to “reassess” his campaign. Flush with resources and a large organizational effort in Iowa, Perry’s high point was the day he entered the race. He joins a line of Texans such as Connally and Graham that had high hopes for a Presidential nomination but ended up quickly out of contention.

Michele Bachmann – the winner of the early Ames Straw Poll – has effectively ended her candidacy whether she chooses to accept that fact or not. Her legacy is one that added little constructive to the dialogue, but managed to end the candidacy of Tim Pawlenty and mortally wound that of Rick Perry along the way. She has long since been the Republican candidate least burdened by fact, and if she should remain, the candidate least burdened with Reality.

Ron Paul remains a significant factor but not a serious threat to win the nomination. His third place showing in Iowa demonstrates that he will remain highly visible part of the primary, yet the organization and resources he amasses along the way are much more likely to end up used to support either Paul’s third party run or that of Gary Johnson who recently left the Republican campaign to compete for the Libertarian Party’s nomination.

John Huntsman, who skipped Iowa altogether, will finally get a look by some who are not delighted with their other choices. Barring a surge in New Hampshire polls over the next week, Huntsman’s brief look from conservatives will likely be short lived.

Rick Santorum was the man of the evening, who now will have all the focus – and related scrutiny – that has come with being the favorite not-Mitt. Iowa is a place that is sympathetic to social conservatives, and Santorum early on staked claim on social issues while most other candidates focused on fiscal issues. New Hampshire is likely to be less kind to Santorum, and national media and opponents will likewise no longer ignore Santorum’s voting record nor his spectacular defeat in his 2006 Senate race.

Gingrich remains the biggest wild card of the remaining not-Mitts. He entered the holiday period as the apparent front runner, but negative ads, a few campaign missteps such failing to meet the Virginia qualification requirements, and a period of no debates which had showcased Gingrich’s strengths combined to a 4th place Iowa finish. Yet a nationwide Gallop poll released before Tuesday’s caucus votes showed Gingrich in a statistical tie with Romney. He’s reasonably competitive in New Hampshire, and is openly staking the future of his campaign on South Carolina. Debates will also resume anew, returning Gingrich to his favorite platform.

Gingrich remains the best positioned not-Mitt to endure the rigors required of a national campaign. For all the press he received for submitting too few signatures for the Virginia ballot, it should be noted that Santorum didn’t even bother to attempt to qualify. Santorum’s organizational learning curve will be much more substantial than Gingrich’s uphill climb.

And then there’s Mitt Romney, the winner of Iowa by 8 votes. He remains the best organized and has the best funding. Yet despite years of planning, he received roughly the same number of votes in Iowa as he did in 2008. Republican insiders see him as the safe pick and the best way to end the nomination process early to focus resources toward defeating Barack Obama. Party activists continue to question his true conservative credentials.

As the field of not-Mitts narrows, it remains to be seen if Romney can build support, or if the not-Mitt vote begins to coalesce around Gingrich or Santorum. The advantage remains with Romney, but the race between these three is wide open as New Hampshire approaches.

12 comments

  1. I Miss the 90s says:

    Santorum may do well in South Carolina, but he is not very popular in NH…Iowa behaved predictably, it is highly evangelical and typically picks fascists like Santorum and Huckabee.

    Of course “conservative” are worried about a Romney nomination, he is not a conservative (unless he needs to be). Like any good politician he knows that, in the end, the right-wing will turn out to vote against Obama regardless of who has an (R) next to their name on the ballot. The right-wing is faced with 2, maybe 3, options: 1) bite your tongue and compromise by voting for Romney in November, 2) since compromise is anathema to much of the right wing, field a third-party candidate and help Obama win one or two marginal states in the West (most likely Nevada and New Mexico), 3) abstain from voting for the Presidency.

    For those that live in the South, I would suggest option 3 since your votes really do not matter in terms of determining the outcome.

    There is something to be said, however, for the fact that 3/4s of Iowa Republicans did not vote for Romney. By and large, Romney’s eminent victory in New Hampshire will end at least one more candidacy (Hunstman), South Carolina does not matter, but Florida may very well determine who the last man standing will be (Perry can do well down there if he does not drop out this weekend).

  2. Three Jack says:

    So 2 more of the gospel gopers have left the building…good. Now we have 4 viable candidates remaining, none of whom will likely be favored in their home states should they become the nominee. This has to be the best opportunity in a long time for a late entry or even an independent candidate.

    • Charlie says:

      Yep, after deadlines, it became clear that the 2 not-Mitt’s positions have reveresed. Bachmann is officially out (or “suspended”), and Perry is the walking dead. He at least has some money, but it will be tough to draw key supporters and media attention after a 5th place finish in a state where his message should have sold. I doubt he does any better in New Hampshire where Romney, Paul, Gingrich, and Huntsman should all do much better than him. He’s a non-starter now.

      • Three Jack says:

        I think Perry still has a slight chance to recover if Newt spends the next few weeks blasting Mitt which might end up hurting both candidates. If this happens, there will be an opening for either Perry or Santorum to exploit….Santorum doesn’t have the resources to take advantage, Perry does.

        • Engineer says:

          I feel like people are missing a key issue, and that is funding. Perry has dropped most of his funds into Iowa and S. Carolina (and still lost in Iowa with a very weak 5th place showing). Santorum and Gingrich both have extremely tight/limited campaign budgets. Even with Gingrich’s Winning The Future (WTF) Super PAC, and Perry’s Make Us Great Again Super PAC, footing the bills for their respective ad campaigns, it may be too little too late, especially when Romney’s Restore Our Future Super PAC dropped just under $3million in advertising. At the end of the day (metaphorically) Paul may be one of the few candidates with enough money in the bank left to go against Romney (reported in September to have collected upwards of $13 million in donations).

          Some totals courtesy of the Des Moines Register (these numbers are from December 27th)

          Rick Perry: $2.86 million
          Make Us Great Again (SuperPac backing Rick Perry): $1.33 million
          Total: $4.19 million

          Mitt Romney: $1.11 million
          Restore Our Future (SuperPac backing Mitt Romney): $2.85 million
          Total: $3.96 million

          Newt Gingrich: $476,000
          Winning Our Future (SuperPac backing Newt Gingrich): $263,000
          Total: $739,000

          Rick Santorum: Honestly can’t seem to find any data on it.
          The Red White and Blue Fund (SuperPac backing Santorum): $347,000

          Ron Paul: $1.37 million
          (not aware of any SuperPacs backing Ron Paul, feel free to chime in the info if you have it)

          Sources for the list:
          http://caucuses.desmoinesregister.com/2011/12/27/gop-candidates-super-pacs-have-spent-10-million-on-tv-radio-pitches-in-december/
          http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/31/us/politics/restore-our-future-attack-ads-harm-gingrich-in-iowa.html

  3. Calypso says:

    For all intents and purposes, the GOP nomination process is over. Romney will face Obama in November. Undoubtedly.

    • CobbGOPer says:

      And due to massive apathy on the part of a large swath of voters – including myself – that have not been impressed or motivated by any of the candidates, Obama will win term #2.

  4. John Konop says:

    Ron Paul comes out swinging hard!

    …….Asked in a CNN interview about assertions by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich that his foreign policy views are isolationist and dangerous, Paul called that laughable.

    Paul said he never votes for spending that the country cannot afford, opposes tax increases and opposes unwise military interventions and doesn’t understand how Gingrich can call him dangerous.

    The Texan said that when Gingrich was called to military service in the Vietnam era, “he chickened out on that … so who’s the danger to the country.”

    “So Newt Gingrich has no business talking about danger because he’s putting that others in danger,” Paul said. He said some people call Gingrich’s brand of politics “chicken-hawk.”…..

    http://www.5min.com/Video/Ron-Paul-Criticizes-Gingrich-And-Santorum-517240133

    • Engineer says:

      I saw that clip, I got a good laugh out of the chickenhawk comment. Although her trying to change the topic to acting upset over a twitter comment that was obviously meant in good fun was a bit annoying.

  5. gcp says:

    Those of us that want less government have no good choice. Newtie can’t quite say where he would cut government. He would rather talk about Reagan and give history lessons. Santorum has some cuts on his web site but given his history of big spending, it’s hard to believe he would cut anything. He would rather talk about bombing Iran and abortion. Romney says he wants to cut the budget but also wants 100,000 more troops. Paul is the only budget cutter but some of his other policies are questionable.

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