Romney Not Ready to Write Off Iowa

Bookmark and Share Recent word was that Mitt Romney was going to skip the Iowa caucuses, the first presidential nominating contest in the nation, and focus on insuring a win in New Hampshire and then move on to South Carolina and Nevada. Now in an interview with Hugh Hewitt, Romney has made it clear that if is to run, he and his campaign will be in Iowa and every other state. Romney tells Hewitt “I decide to run, I’ll be planning on running nationwide, and certainly the early states will be places where we concentrate most of our attention,”.
As pointed out in detail in a previous WH2012 post, in 2008, Romney exhausted much time and treasure in Iowa. In fact he began devoting his resources into the Iowa caucus in the early part of 2007. When all totaled, he spent $10 million but in the end he came in second to Mike Huckabee.

Romney aides had been indicating that after that experience, they are not sure how much more they could do or spend in Iowa to insure a win 2012. Another factor to consider is the fact that even though Huckabee won in Iowa, John McCain’s showing in the Iowa Caucus, which waswell behindRomney, did not prohibit him from going on to win the Republican presidential nomination.

As I noted in in the same post that I referred to earlier, this surrender strategy may have some mileage but from my perspective, it doesn’t have legs. If Romney can’t win in Iowa, than he has little chance of winning South Carolina. And if Romney can’t win or at least be extremely close to winning in South Carolina, than he is essentially writing off much off the delegate rich South. For his part Mitt told Hewitt “If I get in this, I’m not going to be doing so much of a political calculus as I am a calculus of what message needs to be heard by the American people and how I can deliver it best,”. He added, “And that surely will take me to Iowa as well as the other early states.”

That statement is encouraging. In translation it means that Mitt is confident that his campaign is confident that they have established a strategy that will overcome his perceived weaknesses while also having a superior approach to delivering the right message to the right people. It also means that his campaign is confident in its ability to do a Tanya Harding on his opponents and make them limp behind him in the race.

Romney still left himself some room on just how aggressively he will run in Iowa. While he stated that he will concentrate on the early, he avoided drawing the type of upbeat language you usually hear from politicians. Instead of using the usual lingo which would be, “if I run I intend to run hard and win big in the early states”, he used language a little more ambiguous. This would lead me to believe that a lot of what the Romney camp will do, is based upon whether or not Huckabee and Palin will enter the race. If that happens Romney could still allow himself to have a presence in Iowa, but one small enough to indicate that a poor showing in Iowa was in part due to the fact that he did not campaign hard there.

That strategy would be one that focuses on building on the momentum from a win in New Hampshire as a means to have an upper hand in South Carolina and then Nevada. Of course winning all 4 of the first nomination contests would be the possible result. Which is why Romney carefully parses his words. The real “if” he talks about here is not “if” he runs. He and the rest of us know he is. But what Mitt really means when he says “if” is “”if Huckabee runs. If Huckabee runs, Romney’s campaign strategy switches to one that may go light in Iowa or concentrate” more on the type of opposition research that takes Huckabee down a few pegs with a few body blows on the issue of taxes and a lethal use of the Horton Strategy……..the use of the multiple clemencies that Huckabee issued which resulted in multiple deaths of innocent people, including four police officers.

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Romney’s Iowa Strategy; Surrender or Fight?

Bookmark and Share Reports have it that Mitt Romney is mulling over the possibility of skipping the Iowa Caucuses in 2012 and having his campaign launch in New Hampshire, the state with the second nominating contest in the nation.
In 2008, Romney ran an aggressive and expensive campaign in Iowa. In fact, Romneys Iowa journey began in 2007 when he was the first to start airing campaign ads. Just in preparation for the Ames. straw poll, an important summertime precursor to the Winter caucus Mitt Romney had hired a legion of 60 statewide, so-called super-volunteers, that were paid between $500 and $1,000 per month to campaign for him; over $2.4 million in television ads, a top notch direct-mailing campaign that along with other non-TV campaign materials cost another $2.5 million in , and a consultant who managed Mitts straw poll campaign for $200,000. None of the other Republican contenders came close to either Romneys organization skills or size, or the financial investment he dumped into the state. And that was just up until the time of the straw poll which was held in August of 2007. When the straw poll results were in , Romney won with 32%, which consisted of 4,516 votes. Translating in to financial costs, that meant Romney spent approximately $1,107 per vote for a total of about $5 million.

By the time the actual Iowa Caucus rolled around , five months later in 2008, Romney more than doubled the $5 million he had spent up till the straw poll. But in the end, he lost the Iowa Caucus to Mike Huckabee by 9.18%. Huckabee spent a fraction of what Romney spent and he received 40,841 votes or 34.41% and Romney garnered 29,949 with 25.23%. Interestingly, John McCain, the man who ultimately went on to win the Republican nomination, he came in fourth place with 15,559, 13.11% of the vote. So was Romneys investment in Iowa worth the bang for his buck? In retrospect, it sure wasnt. Having saved his money in Iowa didnt hurt John McCain. But McCain went on to win in New Hampshire, a state that by nature of demographics, Romney should have won. This time, it looks like Romney is realizing that.

Despite the rash of recent reports about Romney skipping Iowa are not new. The thought of bypassing Iowa in 2012 has been in play by the Romney camp for quite a while now. In an October 20, 2009 article for the Iowa Republican by Craig Robinson, Robinson pointed out that Mitt had over $400,000 in his Iowa state PAC, when his presidential campaign ended in early February of 2008 and since the fall of 2008, he had been draining the funds from that PAC.

Robinson also pointed that in June of 2009, Romneys Iowa PAC was down to $203,380.91 and instead of making contributions to county party organizations and legislative candidates, Robinson writes he was using the state PAC to subsidize the salaries of aides, like his former campaign manager, Beth Myers, and Eric Fehrnstrom, his former communications director. They were expenditures that had nothing to do with supporting Iowa candidates or building an organization for his leadership PAC.

All things considered it is easy to see that that the notion of ignoring Iowa has been in the back of Romneys mind for a while and it is also easy to understand why.

After the all out effort that Romney put into Iowa in 2008 and recent polls which show Iowa Caucus voters preferring Mike Huckabee to him, Mitt has to consider the possibilities of not only Huckabee running again, but of the possible candidacies of people like Sarah Palin, Mike Pence, John Thune and possibly even Rick Santorum. If all of these candidates were to run in Iowa, they could sharply divide the large evangelical vote that Romney is not fairing well with, thereby giving him the chance of consolidating the rest of the vote into a win. But if from that group, only one or two of them run, such as Huckabee or Palin, than Romney risks coming in second or even worse. That result would probably grab the headlines more than the winner would. This would make Romney vulnerable, not so much in New Hampshire but especially in South Carolina, an increasingly important lead in state to the delegate rich Southern contests.

The question becomes this. If Romney cant win in Iowa, can he win in South Carolina, a state that has an evangelical vote of similar influence to that of Iowas? And if Mitt cant win South Carolina, can he seriously compete in the significant string of Southern states that follow?

Mitts thinking could easily be to focus on insuring that he wins the New Hampshire primary that should be in his pocket but lost to McCain last time, and then build up at least the impression of momentum with a win in Nevada followed by even the smallest of wins in South Carolina. Perhaps by taking the money and time that he would have placed into Iowa, and invest it in South Carolina instead, will help provide his campaign with the type of long term strategy that he needs to keep him alive in places like Michigan, New Jersey, New York, and other high delegate count states.

As for Iowa, Mitts strengths exist in the Northeastern and Western border counties of the state. These are some ofIowas most highly populated counties. If Mitt was able to target these approximately 18 counties and increase his pluralities in them, he could have a shot at reversing the results of 2008. And if Huckabee is his major opponent in Iowa, it is worth noting that Huckabee has a rather large Achilles heal that all his rivals could easily exploit. The issue of the multiple clemencies that Huckabee gave as Governor of Arkansas, and subsequently resulted in additional crimes, including the death of 4 police officers in Washington state, will take some of the shine off Huckabee. It is also an issue which could be a decisive factor in Huckabees decision to run or not to run.

But Mitt has to make a decision regarding Iowa soon. If he does plan on competing in Iowa, he cant wait too long to snap his organization back together. But Romney has made sure that a final decision has not yet been made on Iowa. Since Craig Robinson’s, 2009 piece in the Iowa Republican, reported more than $100,000 in expenditures from his Iowa political action committees in the final fundraising report of 2010. His Iowa PAC also contributed $10,000 to the gubernatorial campaign of Terry Branstad, $1,000 to Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey and State Auditor David Vaudt, as well as a $2,500 contribution to Senate candidate Joni Ernst and $1,500 to Iowa Senate candidate Andrew Naeve All totaled, Romneys Free and Strong – Iowa PAC ended the year with more than $108,000 in cash on hand.

So Romney has not closed the door on Iowa just yet. That decision will likely come when he knows who he will be running against.
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