Yesterday I questioned why all eyes are on Iowa…and whether the results of the Iowa caucus were really that important.
I implied very strongly that I did not think so.
I was wrong.
Yes, you heard me right….I was wrong.
Having seen the results and listened to the speeches and watched the fallout, it is very clear that Iowa was important….not in the traditional sense though.
It was important for what happened, not for the results.
I don’t want to take anything away from Santorum…his performance was awesome, and he ended up having a very good day. Ron Paul also had a good day while Romney, although winning by 8 votes, must be very disappointed.
The top three were kind of expected before the counts started….and Gingrich coming in at fourth place was also expected but his number of votes was rather disappointing.
Perry in 5th place is hanging in a little longer while Bachman has dropped out after a very poor 6th place with just 5000 odd votes.
So, why is it that I have changed my mind and accepted the importance of the Iowa caucus?
Many will disagree with me on this….but I have a strong suspicion that Mitt Romney made the mistake that will cost him the Republican nomination while he was campaigning in this small state.
I don’t care whether you like the former Massachusetts governor or not – the fact is that he was the front-runner for the nomination. He had the money to support a long drawn out campaign. He had the support of the GOP establishment players who remain in his corner. (Do not be fooled – this group is very powerful and operates under the belief that only a moderate can entice the independents and moderate democrats away from the Obama love fest.)
And more importantly, everybody believed that Romney was the only one really capable of beating Obama in a general election.
So, along comes Iowa. As the date of the caucus draws near, Newt Gingrich takes a convincing lead in the polls. He appears to present as a candidate that can truly threaten Romney…and the Romney camp takes aim…and pulls of an astounding hit job on the former speaker. By the time the votes were counted last night, the Speaker’s fall from grace was apparent….two weeks ago he was the favored candidate with 38% of the vote….last night he achieved only 13%.
What happened? In a word, Romney happened.
The Romney crowd could not accept a strong Gingrich performance. That, they believed, would pose a huge threat to Romney’s ultimate nomination simply because of the belief that a good night for Gingrich would represent easier fundraising and better results for him in future.
So the attack dogs were released. With curled lips and snarling teeth, the attack dogs launched thousands of ads in every available time slot – each advertisement being nothing more than a variation of how bad Gingrich is…bad as a person, bad as a politician, bad as a Republican and bad as a conservative. The negative campaign used innuendo, misinformation and downright lies to paint Newt Gingrich as the Jekyll and Hyde of Republican politics.
And it worked.
The voters in Iowa decided they did not want to take a chance with Gingrich and went running toward who they saw as safer alternatives.
And this is Romney’s huge mistake.
The safer alternatives the ex Gingrich supporters sought was not Romney but one of the other more conservative candidates. I suspect many went for Paul and Santorum, while some may have fallen into the Perry camp.
Either way, the negative campaigning did NOT get votes for Romney. His campaign seemed to forget that stopping one of several opponents was not enough….they forgot that they also has to win voters themselves.
At the end of the day, Romney’s small victory is not important. With the money his campaign spent in Iowa he should have won by a much MUCH larger margin.
But surely that will not impact the rest of the campaign across the other 49 states?
What we have now is a strong Santorum who is well placed to take advantage should one of the other leaders stall or trip. We have a very angry Gingrich who now sees the attacks by Romney as personal…and who will now fight to the death with Romney, even at the cost of his own candidacy. He is out for revenge and will not rest until Romney is out of the process.
And we have Santorum on the sidelines, quietly collecting and amassing the Romney/Gingrich voters who step off the train as they go chest to chest like a couple of immature adolescents.
But the plot thickens. The Romney attack on Gingrich may have sent some voters into the Paul camp. A close look at the Paul results shows that he received a lot of votes from young people…people who favor decriminalization of drugs are just a small part of the Paul appeal. Many of these younger voters like his economic policy and his anti-war statements. And then, surprisingly, he captured a large number of independent and democrat voters who were drawn to his foreign policy positions and his economic positions.
Sarah Palin summed up the Paul effect perfectly when she said “I urge the candidates not to disenfranchise Paul supporters.” She gets it. She knows that Paul is not heading to the White House…geez, even Ron Paul knows that….he has made it clear that his role is to open the eyes of the electorate, to open their minds to new ideas…to change the nature of the discussion. And he has proven that moderate democrats and independents alike are NOT drawn toward a moderate Republican but are drawn toward the light of freedom and constitutionally based government.
And Rick Santorum is talking quietly about constitutionally based government returning the US to the greatness of years gone by….while the adolescents continue to thump their chests…and the Paul supporters quietly move their allegiance toward Santorum (especially now that Bachman is out).
I think that Romney is done. Yesterday, I said the results in Iowa don’t matter…and I stand by that assessment to some extent. What I didn’t understand then was how the results could drive a campaign of destruction into the minds of Gingrich and Romney, hence opening the way for a smart, incisive conservative to finally leave the shadows and take his rightful place on the stage.
I have called Santorum a schoolboy in the past because of his childish way of saying “What about me? I deserve some time too”. He is no longer a school boy but a true contender who is being handed the keys to the kingdom …all he need do is reach out and take them.
Of course, this conjecture and crystal ball gazing relies on a number of things happening or not happening:-
1. - That Gingrich allows his ego and emotion to guide his way….I am sure he has good advisors who will point out the error of his ways, but will he listen? And, if he does not listen, that tells me he is not right for the presidency.
2. - Romney will defend himself from the barbs coming from the Gingrich camp. I find it hard to believe that he will ignore these attacks. His ego and need to ensure that Gingrich cannot rise from the ashes, as this Phoenix has so often done, will ensure that the Romney camp plays close attention to keeping that fire lit.
3. - That Santorum is smart enough to stay out of the fray, speaking with conviction about this country and its greatness returning under true conservative government. Taking care not to be drawn into the shenanigans is vital for his success.
4. - The Paul voters realize that his job was to challenge and change the debate…a job he can proudly claim successful….and that when Paul chooses to leave the battle, his supporters will throw their support behind the one that is quietly and strongly standing apart with the country’s consciousness visible ion his sleeve.
5. - That nobody else like Sarah Palin or Mitch Daniels chooses this moment to enter the battle. It must be sorely tempting if they read the tea leaves and come up with a similar result as I have just outlined.
Yes, a lot can happen in a week in politics.
The second part of my post yesterday remains true…we must find the best candidate for the job. The next few weeks will see that candidate emerge….I expected it to need a much longer time frame but I suspect that the adolescents will unknowingly seal their own fates as they seek the destruction of their opponents.
We live in interesting times….what if…….?