We are discovering the 2012 election cycle dynamic every day. One thing we have learned already is that things that didn’t matter last week are crucial this week. The thing we are learning this past week is that money matters, as Mitt Romney surrogates bought waves of negative airtime, Ron Paul bought Michele Bachmann’s Iowa campaign chairman, and Newt suddenly began to realize what a nice thing it would be to have campaign staffs, ground crews, or even counter advertising money.
To Huntsman’s dismay, we may be discovering that Iowa matters. Let me put it this way. If Newt Gingrich wins Iowa, it doesn’t really matter. If Santorum wins Iowa, it will give him some false momentum but Iowa alone won’t matter. If Bachmann wins Iowa, we will all drop our jaw and then move on with the real race. If Paul wins Iowa, mainstream Republicans will spend the next few days complaining about how he did his usual ballot stuffing tricks, but then move on.
However, if Mitt Romney wins Iowa, that will be huge. Iowa has typically stuck to mainstream, evangelical, more conservative than moderate candidates. Iowa has granted hope to Mike Huckabee in recent years, and Michele Bachmann this year. Now, with Mitt Romney leading in the polls, it appears that more conservative, evangelical voters are accepting that Romney will win the nomination. In fact, in this case I wonder what type of dynamic Ron Paul is attributing to Romney’s rise. Are Iowans viewing Gingrich, Perry and now even Santorum as third party spoilers?
I think with the Iowa dynamic, voters may actually prefer Santorum in the current field. Instead, it appears that Iowa may end up being about who can beat Barack Obama, or more immediately, who can beat Ron Paul. At any rate, if Mitt Romney wins, Iowa matters. As McCain proved in 2008, voting for a candidate primarily because of electability is a tough paradigm to crack once it is set.
One thing is for sure. If Romney does win in Iowa, Newt is dreaming if he thinks he can turn everything around in New Hampshire.
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