With 10 weeks to go before Iowa holds its first in the nation presidential nomination contest, the campaign strategies of the individual candidates are becoming more real than hypothetical. That is especially the case with Mitt Romney who recently travelled to Iowa and essentially confirmed his campaign’s official position that they want to compete in Iowa.
Whether Romney really wanted to invest any effort in Iowa has been in great doubt and even seemed to lean toward his desire not to run an aggressive campaign there. Unlike like his strategy in 2008, in 2012 Romney avoided the Iowa Straw Poll and has failed to hire an extensive network of paid Iowa operatives and workers. In 2008, with over $10 million invested into the Hawkeye State, Romney ended up losing to longshot Mike Huckabee, and in the end, third place Iowa Caucus contender John McCain, went on to win the presidential nomination. So there is no doubt that Mitt Romney can win the 2012 nomination without Iowa. Between that and the fact that Mitt is viewed with great apprehension by the inordinately influential evangelical base of Iowa conservatives, conceding the Iowa Caucus, could be a good strategy that allows Romney’s campaign to conserve critical economic resources for other contests, such as South Carolina and Florida.
But with the clock ticking in Iowa and the recent slide of Rick Perry, and rise of Herman Cain in polls, Romney chances of winning a plurality of the individual statewide caucuses in Iowa is now more possible than ever. That possibility is based on what was once the hypothetical argument that with conservatives dividing their vote among several more prefered , Romney could rack up a plurality of votes with a wide coalition of moderate and soft Republicans. The numbers are now beginning to show that, at least in Iowa, that scenario has a great chance of going from hypothesis to fact.
The only foil in that scenario would have been Jon Huntsman, who like Romney, is perceived as being more moderate than the rest of the field. Had Huntsman caught on, he could have easily split the moderate and left of center Republican vote between him and Romney. That would have made it possibly for a conservative candidate who solidified the base behind them, the chance to win a small but still winning majority of votes. But between huntsman’s inability to gain traction, Perry’s unceremonious knock off the electoral summit, and conservatives still looking for a figure a single candidate they can get behind with total confidence, Romney is looking as good as ever.
Unless and until someone emerges as the clear conservative favorite and do so soon, Romney will be the nominee.
That is one reason why Mitt is now prepared to throw himself in to Iowa. It is an early kill strategy.
With no signs of a significant challenge to him in New Hampshire, the second nomination contest in the nomination, If Romney can pull off an unexpected win in Iowa, he will go in to South Carolina’s pivotal first in the South primary, undefeated and with incredible momentum. Momentum that could be enough to allow Romney to squeak by with a third consecutive win that will give him additional momentum in winning the important primary that follows that ……… Florida.
The only way to really stop Romney after wins in Iowa and New Hampshire would be by someone upsetting Mitt in South Carolina, a scenario that is quite possible. And the same is possible if Romney win’s Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina if they pulled out a strong win in Florida. If not, the nomination race will essentially be over.
Perry seems to be prepared to do as Bush did in 2000 and McCain did in 2008. He seems to be setting his eyes on making South Carolina his line in the sand that he hopes none of the other candidates will be able to cross and which will mark the first of all the wins he intends to rack up following South Carolina on. But that strategy is a big gamble. If Romney is allowed to build his momentum with back to back wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, he could easily become a force too strong to stop. That will especially be the case if South Carolina Governor Niki Haley endorses Romney and gives him the keys to the state Party apparatus and its organizational strength. In that event, the only way Romney could be stopped would be if the conservative Republican fathers convinced one of the two major conservative contenders to drop out of the race. Romney could then be stopped in his tracks if by the time South Carolina’s primary rolled around, people like Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and either Herman Cain or Rick Perry dropped out and allowed the conservative vote to coalesce around one single conservative alternative to Romney.
However none of this can happen until someone emerges as a stable, longterm, alternative to Romney.
Right now, even in Iowa, a growing sense of inevitability surrounding Romney becoming the Republican nominee, is working to Romney’s advantage. Until and unless someone can demonstrate that Romney’s record has fatal flaws in it that disqualify him from being a credible conservative or presidential candidate, they can only hope that they can establish themselves through their own credible, innovative, ideas and reforms.
Herman Cain has achieved a degree of success in doing that with his 9-9-9 plan, but that is now beginning to lose its previous shine. On Tuesday, Texas Governor Rick Perry hopes that he may be able to establish himself through credible and innovative conservative ideas and reforms by proposing a flat tax. And he will make that proposal in none other than South Carolina, the state that he is hoping will launch him back in to frontrunner status. For Perry, it is a good start. Romney should have adopted a flat tax long ago and made it one of the 59 points in his economic recovery plan. Not only would have that stymied Herman Cain’s success with his hybridized flat tax plan, it would have left Rick Perry without the opportunity to steal some of the tax reform thunder.
But the question is will Rick Perry be able to present the flat tax and exploit its merits in a way that can get him back in the game. Or will he blow it by claiming that if you’re not for a flat tax, “you have no heart“?
Used properly, a campaign can take a flat tax proposal and do wonders with it. Moving to a flat tax provides great material for powerful campaign themes that can capture voters imagination. Themes like reform, real reforms that bring real change, and themes involving economic growth, which a flat tax has proven to be the best friend of. Other themes can include tha ability to campaign on a unifying belief in one rate for one nation, without penalizing success or picking winners and losers. Supporting a flat tax is also a great way to help convey to voters that one is not a strict establishment candidate and is willing to challenge conventionalpolitical thinking, change the way that Washington works, and prevent it from rigging the system against us.
The problem is that I have not yet seen Perry’s campaign demonstrate the ability to shape their messages very well.
Throw in to the mix another potential factor…… Newt Gingrich.
Until now, Gingrich has had little impact on the race and at this point he may not have much of impact. But should Newt succumb to the need to create and manage an effective ground team and organization in some of the early contests and should he finally make a move to control the agenda, he could be an unplanned for threat to Mitt Romney, as well as the others.
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