Thursday, January 5, 2012

Romney and Iowa: When a Victory is Not a Victory

Politico Arena Topic: Iowa a win, loss, or draw for Romney?

Mitt Romney’s eight vote margin of victory is very disappointing for a candidate with a huge edge in money and name recognition. His 2012 vote percentage (25%) was roughly the same as 2008—this despite the fact that he never stopped campaigning for president. Romney is a flawed frontrunner who cannot break through with conservatives. He will likely do well in New Hampshire given the fact that he owns a home there (of course, where doesn’t he own a home?) and was governor of a neighboring state. South Carolina, however, will represent a huge reality-check for Romney where conservatives will rule the day.

The real story of the night was the performance of former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. Not exactly a household name among the Republican electorate, Santorum had very little cash or organization. His late surge in the polls and surprise tie is evidence that conservatives are desperately searching for an alternative to Romney. Other conservatives such as Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, and Newt Gingrich peaked early but faded because they had too many personal or professional peccadilloes. Santorum was aided by good timing, peaking at the right time. His tie will mean that the bright lights will now shine on Santorum and we’ll see how he holds up. Santorum’s strong performance also will translate in to cold hard cash as conservatives will open the checkbook for their new standard-bearer, especially if Perry and Bachmann have been knocked out of the race.

Finally, Representative Ron Paul’s strong third place showing gives him momentum going to New Hampshire where independents and more moderate voters will buoy his campaign. Paul’s supporters are the most loyal of any of the candidates in the GOP field and Paul is in the race for the long haul. In fact, a third-party or independent general election candidacy for Ron Paul is a significant possibility if he continues to perform well in the primary season but falls short of the GOP nomination.

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