Bachmann and Santorum’s Iowa Monkey Wrench

Bookmark and Share  While all the talk of late is about Herman Cain’s drop in the polls and exit from the campaign, and Newt Gingrich’s rise in the polls, it can be hard to stay focussed on the bigger picture.  In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, that bigger picture has absolutely nothing to do with national polls.  While the collective national delegate count wins one the presidential nomination, the road to the nomination involves fifty individual elections in fifty different states and they all do not think alike.   That is why if there are any polls to factor in to any nomination prediction, they are only the individual state polls

And in places like Iowa, the home of the first voting to take place in the presidential nomination process, Hawkeye voters like to confound the pollsters.  They like pulling off results that surprise the media elite and make those who spend weeks telling them who they are going to vote for, wear egg on their faces.

That was the case in 2008 when Iowa Republicans chose underdog Mike Huckabee as the winner of their caucus.

This time around, there are two candidates whom pundits need to watch out for in Iowa.  They are Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum and the need to watch them is only made more dramatic by Herman Cain’s exit from the race.

Back in the Summer, Bachmann surprised many by pulling off a victory in the state’s Ames Straw Poll.  For a two week period following that win, she experienced a slight bump in the polls, but as is the case with several candidates, her numbers soon fell back down to the single digits.

Then the polls showed Romney doing surprisingly well in Iowa. Not long after that, Herman Cain leaped ahead, and now Newt Gingrich has surged to the front. 

Through it all though, Republican voters in Iowa have been ignoring the polls.  Instead, they are dealing with the candidates.  They are taking the robo-calls, listening to the radio ads, watching the television commercials, reading the news and the campaign literature, attending the various candidate town hall meetings, and shaking the candidate’s hands in local strip malls.  They are also quietly coming to their own conclusions…….., conclusions which they do not always honestly admit to strangers on the other end of the phone.

Meanwhile, the real game in Iowa right now is the ground game. 

Caucus victories are all contingent on organization.  A well organized campaign that coordinates its supporters and gets them to the individual caucuses with well understood instructions, will win.   

Given these facts, despite what popular thinking may be at the moment, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are the two candidates who are best positioned to confound the pundits and ensure an intense stretch of primary contests to follow in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida.

With her Ames Straw Poll win, Bachmann already proved that she has the capacity  to organize her supporters.  And since then,  she has remained focussed on Iowa, and essentially put all her eggs in the state’s basket.   Since the straw poll, Bachmann has already identified a number of Iowa supporters that exceeds the the number of votes that Mike Huckabee won the state with in 2008.  That’s significant.

Then there is Rick Santorum, one of the most underfunded candidates in the field.

Santorum has now campaigned in every corner of the state.  He has held events in all of Iowa’s 99 counties and is aggressively waging the type of one-on-one, retail politics that can connect with voters, not just through the issues, but on a personal level.  That was part of  Huckabee’s success.  Afterall, in 2008, Huckabee was outspent by Mitt Romneyby a margin of 20 to 1 and despite  spending over $10 million in in Iowa, Mitt lost to Huckabee by 9 percentage points.

Also worth considering is the fact that Santorum has been largely written off by the media.  The  lack of  attention afforded Santorum the opportunity  to remain a stealthy, scandal free candidate.   And since they are not perceived as threats, both he and Bachmann have not been the victims of critical ads attacking their records and impugning their character.  On top of that, in states like Iowa, where minds are made up by the  number of times a candidate has shaken your hand and looked you in the eye, the lack of any limelight may be an advantage.

In light of these observations, no one should be surprised if Michele Bachmann and/or Rick Santorum throw a monkey wrench in to the plans of any perceived frontrunner.

Right now, several popular scenarios seem to be surfacing regarding Iowa’s effect on the nomination contest.  In one, after all the angst over Romney and all the talk about a search for a suitable anti-Romney candidate,  Mitt ends up surprising  everyone and actually wins Iowa.  In that scenario, every other candidate in the race loses momentum or the chance for creating any significant  momentum for at least the next week or possibly two.  Then Romney wins New Hampshire and goes into South Carolina as a strong frontrunner who coalesces just enough support to win the Magnolia State and then moves on to a more significant win in Florida, where Mitt wraps up the nomination.

In the other popular scenario, Newt Gingrich wins Iowa, forces Romney to work hard to win in New Hampshire, and South Carolina breaks the tie and essentially propels the winner there to a win in Florida and ultimately the nomination.

What no one is really considering is a win in Iowa by Santorum or Bachmann.

If  either one of them wins Iowa, expect a battle royal for South Carolina and a primary contest that does not end quickly.

 Such a drawn out contest is not good for Mitt Romney.  An early consolidation of the nomination behooves Romney because once the race goes past Florida, the calendar does not necessarily favor him in any decisive way until until April.

After Florida comes Nevada with 23 delegates and while Romney is the likely victor there, if Mitt had not yet racked up a significant portion of delegates and hit his stride, it will not be enough to force his closest rivals out of the race.  The same goes for February 7th, 117 delegates are up in the sates of Colorado (36), Minnesota (40), and Missouri (53).

If there is no clear favorite before then, you can expect mixed results, that favor Romney in Colorado, Bachmann in Minnesota, and Newt Gingrich in Missouri. 

This type of back and forth could continue to play itself out until March 6th, when Georgia,  Idaho, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia, give Mitt’s rivals as many as 418 delegates, and Alaska, Massachusetts, and North Dakota give Romney 96 delegates.

After that, it is conceivable that there could be no clear winner until at least April 24th when  a Mid-Atlantic Super Tuesday event  puts 231 delegates up for grabs in Connecticut – (28 ),  Delaware (17),  New York  (95 ), Pennsylvania, (72), and Rhode Island (19).  Baring any unforseen events….lol), Romney would be favored to win most if not all those delegates and essentially secure his path to the nomination.  But by that time Mitt could be so battered, and beaten, that he becomes damaged goods for the G.O.P.

All this could be the result of a Bachmann or Santorum win in Iowa.  And in many ways, they need not even win Iowa to change the course of events.   A decent showing by both Bachmann and Santorum could be enough to actually deny the ultimate alternative to Romney, enough votes to beat Romney with.  That would help Mitt wrap things up early.

In the final analysis, Iowa may not pick the next President but with Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum in the game, Iowa may make this one of the most hotly contested and longest lasting competitive races for the Republican presidential nomination since 1976 when Ronald Reagan challenged President Gerald for the nomination.  That was the last Republican convention in which it was not known who the nominee would be from the start of the convention.

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2 Responses

  1. […] Bachmann and Santorum’s Iowa Monkey Wrench […]

  2. […] up on him in New Hampshire.  This all spells deep trouble for Romney.  As outlined in a previous White House 2012 post, if Mitt fails to lock up the nomination early, he may be in for a long battle that could go in to […]

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