Impressions from the Iowa Caucus

Anyone who called this race before December, please stand up and take a bow. What… No one called it?

Surprise.

The race went about as expected if and only if you set your expectations Monday morning. Santorum pulling up just eight votes shy of Romney? Romney actually winning? Gingrich pulling in a very distant fourth? Paul fading to third?

Surprise.

And now Bachmann is out.

It’s nice to see some clarity coming to the field, and I do believe we’ll see additional clarity with Perry dropping out in coming days. It’s still debatable if he will, but I think he will soon. At the very least, by South Carolina.

So here’s my current stance starting with least likely to win to most likely to win.

Jon Hunstman

A near no-show for Huntsman for Iowa was about the only thing that you could have predicted months ago. Huntsman put all of his eggs in the New Hampshire basket, and you can expect that to be scrambled next Tuesday.

Rick Perry

I expect Perry to drop by New Hampshire. At the same time, I think he could push on to South Carolina. Of all the weaker candidates, he is the only one with the organization and funding to be able to continue despite not pulling numbers. Michelle Bachmann had little choice but to pull the plug because her finish was low enough to pretty much dry up the funding stream. No money, no campaign. Rick Perry will find himself in a similar situation with a bad show in South Carolina.

At this point, the real contribution both Perry and Bachmann will make is in who they endorse. If Santorum pulls the endorsement, watch out. If Romney does, the nomination process will be over.

Ron Paul

I know, I know… You Ron Paul lovers don’t want to admit this, but here’s the truth. Ron Paul is not electable as president. I’m sorry. I like him, too, although I’m willing to see his faults.

Despite a strong third-place finish in Iowa, Ron Paul still has to work through the closed primaries/caucuses, and those will restrict the independent on non-Republican voters that are such a big draw for him. He’ll do well enough in New Hampshire, but South Carolina promises to be a blood bath for him.

I expect Ron Paul to push through the early spring before finally pulling the plug. About the only thing I’m sure of is that Ron Paul will NOT pick up the important endorsements from candidates who have dropped or will drop. Gingrich and Bachmann have both been abundantly clear on their opinion of Paul.

On a side note, I’ve been thinking a lot about the electoral college debate, and Ron Paul would stand to benefit the most by moving to a direct, popular vote election. Electoral College vs Direct, Popular Vote will have to be a post for another day.

Newt Gingrich

Yes, I have Newt still sitting in the third. To be honest, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th are all fractions of an inch apart from each other, so to say that Newt is third is more to say he’s lumped in a large tie for second along with Paul and my second-place candidate.

Newt’s primary problem is still the baggage he carries and the enormous vitriol being poured on him from his opponents. He’s trying to run the happy, positive campaign, but it’s not going to work. I admire his stance, and I actually even like him as a candidate. He’s not going to win.

Rick Santorum

Now this is the big surprise. I thought he’d catch a bump in Iowa, but to finish only eight votes off first place? Wow. I’m impressed.

I’ve been debating with a friend through the morning over Rick Santorum. To be blunt, she likes him; I don’t. I admire him for his stance on certain issues, but he comes across as a whiner to me. I hate whiners. He played stupid during the debates (or smart if you like him, I guess), and he arguably did the greatest harm early in the campaign cycle not to his opponents but to the party. His consistent attacks on front runners were both misguided and inappropriate in my opinion. At that time, his campaign was so weak that his attacks were nothing more than whiny, petty, and grossly out of line.

But now he’s a legitimate opponent, at least for the time being.

Santorum will catch a bump from this. Iowa isn’t always a strong predictor of future success (Huckabee won last time, and McCain came in fourth), but the nature of this win will propel the Santorum campaign, including and especially fund raising. That’s the positive.

The negative is that Santorum has not been the subject of media attention, attacks from opponents, or even consideration by most people. He will be now, and I don’t think he holds up to the lime light well. He’s strong, he’s capable, and he has relatively few skeletons in the closet, but up until now he’s been able to get by with thin platitudes, sound bites, and catch phrases. No longer. He’ll either have a plan or he won’t. If he doesn’t, this’ll be short-lived.

Having said that, Santorum is, in my opinion, the most likely person to catch Bachmann’s endorsement. If even half of her voters move over to Santorum, that’s a huge bump. Santorum is also a strong candidate for Perry’s endorsement, which is an even larger bump. Cain still has an endorsement in his pocket, and you can believe the endorsement of the pastor will help Santorum or whoever gets it.

Santorum is the new wild card in this election and, in my opinion, the only remaining challenge to Romney. He’s not expected to do well in New Hampshire, but if Santorum pulls out second place with a reasonable percentage of the vote, you can mark it down now that he’ll be the odds-on favorite to win South Carolina’s closed primary. If he pulls South Carolina, the Romney campaign will be scrambling to find an answer.

Mitt Romney

It’s still his to lose. I already outlined the Santorum effect, so I won’t go into details.

His win in Iowa is big. He didn’t really campaign there, so to win anyway is a positive sign. I stated a few weeks ago that if Romney won Iowa, it was pretty much over, and it is…

… except for Santorum.

Expect Romney to win huge in New Hampshire and place top two in South Carolina. Anything else signals the beginning of the end for Romney.

At this point, among the given Republican candidates, my choice is Romney. He’s got the skills I want and the ability to do it. I also think he’s the only Republican candidate who can beat Obama, which is admittedly at least as important to me as any other consideration. Most of you won’t be surprised to find that I think Obama is a terrible president, especially fiscally and economically. Since those two considerations are the most critical to this nation right now and are also Romney’s strongest skill sets….

Ah… I’m actually glad election season is here! We’ll see how long that lasts.

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One Response to Impressions from the Iowa Caucus

  1. Sarah L. says:

    I have a new keyboard and I just want to say one thing.

    I CAN’T STAND RON PAUL!!!!! This clip sums it up for me. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tyeVa35B-qU

    He sounds so paranoid. He is the only guy I wouldn’t choose over Obama, which is saying a lot because I seriously can’t stand him either. If it were between the two, I would write in another name. And then I would cry hysterically or something.

    Ahhhhhhhh ……. Sweet, sweet spaces between words.

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