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After Iowa

by James Spurgeon, published

So the Iowa caucus has come and gone for the 2012 election.  Does it really mean anything in the overall grand scheme of things?  Not really.  The Iowa voters don't necessarily pick the candidate that will eventually be the nominee.  And when it comes to the voting demographic in Iowa, it does not come close to being an accurate representation of the overall national voting demographic.  Regardless, though, Iowa goes first... as it has since 1972.  And though it might not pick the winner all the time, it can definitely derail campaigns and make other soar.

Remember then-Senator Barack Obama (Dem) and former-Governor Mike Huckabee (Rep) in the 2008 primary?  Both of them were largely unknown and won their party's caucus.  The difference, Obama, though losing in New Hampshire, was still able to ride his Iowa win to victory in other states and eventually to the nomination and to a general election victory.  Huckabee failed in New Hampshire, too, but wasn't able to mount a successful campaign to stop John McCain from getting the nomination despite winning a few more states.

The Republican Presidential Candidates

What hurt Mike Huckabee then might play out again here in 2012.  Former-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney beat Former-Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum by 8-votes in Iowa.  Texas Congressman Ron Paul came in third.  Santorum nearly pulled off a Huckabee-style win getting the majority of his votes from the Christian conservatives/Evangelical Christian voters.  The Republican voting bloc in Iowa is overflowing with them.  The problem for Santorum is going to be the next battle... New Hampshire where Christian conservatives just aren't very abundant.  If he can somehow survive a beating in New Hampshire, he has a chance in South Carolina and maybe parts of Florida (northern Florida).  But when the contest moves to Nevada, it's again unlikely that he will win with those that aren't his main voting bloc.  If he hasn't derailed by then, that should be the mark.  His virtual-tie in Iowa only means he gets more media attention for now, but it doesn't mean that he can get the nomination.  The Republican voting bloc sees him as to religious and too-far right wing.  He can get the Tea-Party and Christian conservative votes, but he won't get the independent and moderate votes that he would need to win in November.

What about some other candidates.  Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann has withdrawn after coming in 5th place.  Texas Governor Rick Perry went home to think about it but has now decided to fight to South Carolina.  Without a strong showing there, it will be over for him.  He might make it to Florida, but no chance after that unless he can make a huge comeback.  Former-Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich is on life support.  Unless he can show that there is some life in his campaign in New Hampshire and/or South Carolina, it will be over for him, too.  Again, he can't get passed Florida without something bigger... and South Carolina is going to be his best bet to beating Mitt Romney and where he should concentrate (since New Hampshire is not possible for him).  After coming in third place, Texas Congressman Ron Paul is in a good place to make a difference.  He gets a very different demographic of the Republican party and even the independents.  It remains to be seen how far he can go.  His supporters are usually fairly faithful to him.  But his main downfall is that he doesn't appeal to the core Republican voters.

Former-Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney might have been left holding the victory torch by those 8-votes after Tuesday, and though Iowa doesn't necessarily pick the eventual nominee, he is sitting pretty good right now.  In New Hampshire, he has a double-digit lead.  Though in 2008, Obama had a lead in Iowa but Hillary Clinton ended up winning the Democratic primary there, so nothing is set in stone in this last week.  Who could upset Romney? Congressman Ron Paul could surge up in the independent-minded state.  But there is one other candidate that has put everything at stake in New Hampshire.  He came in last in Iowa, but didn't really campaign there at all.  Former-Utah Governor Jon Huntsman. He's a moderate and has been campaigning hard.  Though it will be hard for anyone to take down Romney's double-digit lead in a week, Huntsman needs to have a good second-place finish to stay in the race.  If he doesn't, I fear that his campaign will end.  If he can, and then can survive until Nevada in February, he might be able to best Romney.  The two Mormon candidates battling it out for that vote in the West where they are on Huntsman's home turf.  All of that depends on his finishing in New Hampshire, though, and if he can pick up some momentum so he doesn't get trounced in other states.  Again his biggest drawback is going to be that he's a moderate and not a party extremist.

With Iowa now over, the nomination is Romney's to lose.  He didn't campaign there very much and wasn't making a big play for it.  Yet, he still edged out a win.  And with New Hampshire being in his political back yard, the ball is in his court. It will be interesting to see now how long this race might go on.  It could all be "theoretically" over with Florida or Nevada... though mathematically, he'd still be far short of the number of delegates needed for the nomination.  It's all about money to mount the campaign in each state, and he's the one candidate sitting on it and the campaign infrastructure to keep going.

UPDATE: (1/19/2012)

Upon certifying the Iowa caucus votes from January 3, Rick Santorum won the state by 34-votes over Mitt Romney.


President Obama was not challenged in the Democratic Iowa caucus and will receive all of his party's delegates.


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