Wednesday, January 04, 2012
Iowa fallout 2012
Here we are, barely into the New Year (Gregorian) and the stench of national politics asserts itself. I'm loathe to descend into those stinky depths. But I can hardly allow the Iowa caucuses to pass unmarked. (Can I?)
In case you missed it, Mitt Romney squeaked out a victory over Rick Santorum by a total of eight (8!) votes, while Ron Paul came in third. Those three candidates accounted for over 70% of the total vote, with the others together garnering somewhat less than 30%.
Here's how I see it for the individual candidates.
The punditry (and the Republican candidates, themselves) are divided as to the significance of Mitt's victory. On the one hand, he did get the most votes. And even as recently as a month ago, most prognosticators thought that Iowa, with its hard-core Evangelical Christian base, was beyond Mitt's grasp. On the other hand, Romney only barely eked out a victory after out-spending his opponents by huge margins. And his share of the vote was roughly 25% of the total. That's a threshold beyond which he can't seem to advance.
Nonetheless, the Romney campaign has to feel good going into New Hampshire next week. That's Romney's turf and a win there, which is almost assured, will at least give him the perception of having the "Big Mo" behind him.
Last night was a big night for Rick Santorum. He came out of nowhere to challenge and nearly beat a vastly better funded candidate. He did it on the strength of the aforementioned Evangelical Christian base that composes much of the GOP in Iowa.
But I'm not sure that Santorum's apparent strength will endure. I suspect that, more than anything, he is the beneficiary of fortunate timing. Other GOP candidates have risen to the top of the polls over the last 6 months (Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry, Hermann Cain, and Newt Gingrich), only to whither under the glare of the media spotlight. Santorum, it seems to me, is simply the non-Romney of the moment. The next few weeks will reveal the truth.
Since 2008, Ron Paul has maintained a core of support within the GOP: the Libertarian wing of the party. But last night, in Iowa, he got 22% of the vote, which is better than he's done in any previous primary or caucus. Paul was practically giddy when he made his remarks at the close of the evening.
My guess is that Paul's relative strength is another symptom of Republican disaffection with the more "conventional" candidates. There are many conservatives who simply cannot bring themselves to support Romney. Ron Paul is, for those people, a protest vote. Sort of the right's version of a Dennis Kucinich. I think his support will remain steady, but it won't be enough for him to make a serious run at the nomination.
When Newt Gingrich made his remarks last night, I was astonished at how transparent were the contempt and hatred he expressed for Mitt Romney. Of course, one can't really blame Newt, since he was the target of a multimillion dollar negative ad campaign funded by Romney supporters. Newt had no sooner risen to the top of the GOP polls than Romney brought him right down to earth... by telling the truth!
Well, regardless of the state of his campaign, Newt's vindictiveness is still alive and well. Last night he vowed to "tell the truth," himself. One thing we all know about Newt is that he doesn't let go of a grudge. (Remember when, as Speaker, he shut down the government because President Clinton didn't let him sit in first class on Air Force One?) That good ol' Newt Gingrich stink is gonna start flyin' now. Watch out, Mitt!
Rick Perry was very dispirited last night. His remarks indicated that he might even drop out of the race. But phones were ringing overnight, apparently. This morning, Rick was all full of Texas piss and vinegar, vowing to take the fight to South Carolina. (He omitted next week's New Hampshire primary, though. Confederates don't really sell up there in New England.)
My guess is that those big money contributors that fattened up Rick's campaign war chest to the tune of $16 million were miffed at Rick's willingness to roll over. Sixteen million is a lot of scratch! Governor Perry was probably on the receiving end of some serious ass-chewing.
Michelle Bachmann finally got the humiliation that most people believed she was destined to receive. Even though Iowa is her home state as much as anywhere (she was born there), she managed only 5% of the vote. If you don't believe her poor showing was due to her out-and-out crazy public remarks, her cavalier relationship to truth, and perhaps an inherent patriarchal bias in the hard-right conservative wing of the GOP, I don't know what else to which you might attribute it.
In any case, this morning, she dropped out of the race. Good riddance!
If we're to believe what he's telling us (and why not? he seems honest), John Huntsman is banking on a miracle in New Hampshire. Seems like a pretty thin reed upon which to base one's aspirations. On the other hand, Neighbor Mac is of the opinion that, for Republicans anyway, running for President is an iterative process. It is true that Republicans seem to nominate the candidate that is perceived to be "next in line." Well, if that's the case, maybe we'll see John Huntsman again in 2016. But, for now, his campaign looks dead in the water. I expect he'll drop out of the race after New Hampshire.
Anyway, these are all just my decidedly amateurish prognostications. But what the hell? There's no reason my guesses are any less valid than those of some schmuck on Fox News. We'll see...