Split Decision

January 4, 2012
By Ric Albano

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum finish in a virtual tie in the 2012 Iowa CaucusesMitt Romney and Rick Santorum finished in a virtual tie in Tuesday’s Iowa Caucuses with Romney getting just eight more total votes than Santorum statewide, by far the closest election ever. It was virtually a split decision, with each receiving 24% of the total vote. Ron Paul came in third with about 22% of the vote, but that was surely inflated by late registering independents and “operation chaos”-like participants. 38% of participants had never voted in a GOP caucus, according to the entrance polls, and about half of those voted for Paul. So it is unlikely that Paul will do nearly as well in other states with closed primaries.

There are many ways to read these results from Iowa. First, there is the question of whether this is further proof that Romney is indeed “stuck” and has hit his ceiling as the polls have been suggesting.  He definitely has the support of the Republican establishment who think he is the most “electable”. He also has the strong support of the mainstream media who would hate to see all the left wing, pro-Obama. occupy-everything-but-a-job, protest the 1%, framework go down the toilet if someone of more modest means were to get the nomination. From the positive perspective, Romney did win the Iowa Caucuses and is the huge favorite to win the first primary in New Hampshire next Tuesday. But this same night will likely knock out Rick Perry and Michelle Bachman, whose supporters next choice may not be Romney. So another question is, did the competition for the conservative vote among several candidates help Romney and will the absence of some candidates increase the share for one of his remaining opponents?

By all accounts, Rick Santorum grew his support in Iowa the old fashioned way. He traveled to every county in the state, of which there are 99, and stuck to his consistent conservative message. This message he delivered in person, face-to-face, rather than relying on television commercials and “new media”, which so many swear by these days. In that sense, his quasi-victory was richly deserved and it is fun because the statist. left-wing media was so unprepared with opposition research on this “Jesus freak.” The major question for him is, can he sustain the momentum? Although he is likely to do as well in New Hampshire, he has a real chance the following weeks in South Carolina and Florida and may be in a good position as we head into the heart of the primaries later in the winter.

As for Newt Gingrich, who had a huge lead in the Iowa polls in mid December, it has been a tough couple of weeks. His speech last night seemed bitter and divisive and may have been his “Howard Dean” moment (although much less dramatic), which will all but kill any real chance at getting the nomination.

But politics is very unpredictable and I’m sure that many more surprises await us this campaign year.

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