All Eyes on Iowa Today
Hundreds of meetings, thousands of miles, millions of dollars and we have come to today: the famous
Iowa caucuses, which actually mean nothing and everything at the same time. The most recent polls say it
is basically a tie between Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Rick Santorum, with everyone else bunched at the bottom.
But 40% of the potential caucus-goers said they could still change their minds. This is where the difference
between a caucus and a primary really shows up. In a primary, you stand in line, vote, and go home. In a caucus,
people get up in front of the room and pitch their candidates. There is discussion. A particularly persuasive
speaker could swing some undecided voters. Then after all the talk is done, each voter gets a blank sheet of
paper and is asked to write the name of his or her preference on it. Note that this is only a preference for
delegates to the 99 county conventions in March. The people who go there elect the delegates to the congressional-district
conventions and so on up the tree to the RNC. These people can change their mind as time goes on. In 2008, for example,
John McCain came in fourth in the first round but ended up getting all the delegates to the RNC in the end.
The big story now is about Rick Santorum and how far his surge will take him. He might well win today. That would
give him momentum going into South Carolina (he can forget about New Hampshire as his brand of conservativism does
not fly there). But the real story is about how well Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich do. If either of them greatly
outperforms the other one, the loser might drop out (possibly after New Hampshire) and the remaining one could
make a last stand in South Carolina. Remember, even if Santorum wins today, he has no money and no organization
going forward. A decent showing by either Perry or Gingrich could wipe him out in South Carolina, or more likely
in Florida, which is an expensive state to campaign in.
How did Santorum get to be where he is now? Probably three main reasons. First, he was the last man standing.
Trump, Bachmann, Cain, Perry, and Gingrich all took off like ill-fated rockets and came crashing back to earth shortly
after launch. Santorum is the only guy left conservatives can rally behind. Second, because he has been down in the
weeds all year, nobody has been paying attention to him. It turns out this is a good thing, not a bad thing.
When Gingrich took off, SuperPACs allied with Romney poured millions of dollars into a very negative campaign against
him. He didn't have the money to fight back. Because Santorum is peaking so late, there was no time for anyone to
run negative ads against him. Had he peaked earlier, he would have been a target. Third, he campaigned the way Iowans
like it. He visited all 99 counties and held over 300 town hall meetings all over the state. The voters really got to
know him well. They like that. None of the other candidates did as much retail politicking, although Bachmann did a fair
amount, too, but she's just too looney for Iowa, despite her having been born there.
So to summarize, it's not about who comes in first today. It's about who drops out. Romney is unlikely to get
more than 20-25% of the vote but the other 75-80% is badly fragmented over half a dozen candidates. If several of
them get wiped out today and drop out (possibly after New Hampshire next week), then the 75-80% of voters who do not
like Romney might all move to one or two remaining candidates who could then to give Romney a run for his considerable
The Horse Race as a Horse Race
If you want to see the Republican horse race as an actual horse race, take a look at what Slate
has put together: the race with actual (albeit cartoon)
A fun way to spend a minute.
If you like this Website, tell your friends. You can also share by clicking this button
-- The Votemaster
Jan01 Happy New Presidential Election Year
Jan01 Iowa Caucuses Are This Tuesday
Jan01 Final Selzer Poll: Romney and Paul on top but Santorum Rising
Dec16 No Fireworks in Final GOP Debate
Dec11 Romney Offers Perry a $10,000 Bet During Debate
Dec11 Where is Sarah Palin?
Dec11 The 2012 Contest: Whole Foods Clients vs. Cracker Barrel Shoppers
Dec07 Gingrich Way Ahead in Iowa
Dec07 Obama Gives Fiery Speech Attacking the Republicans
Dec07 Pelosi Backtracks on Releasing Dirt
Dec04 Herman Cain Drops Out
Dec04 Gingrich Pulls Away in Iowa
Nov29 Woman Accuses Cain of Long-Running Affair
Nov23 Romney's Extended Family Could be a Problem
Nov23 Republicans Ignore China, Eurocrisis in Debate on Foreign Affairs
Nov19 Newton Defies Gravity
Nov10 Perry Stumbles Badly in Debate
Nov09 Anti-Union Bill Repealed in Ohio
Nov09 Republicans May Take over Virginia State Senate
Nov09 An Egg is Not a Person in Mississippi
Nov06 Romney's Choice
Oct22 Cain First, Romney Real Winner in NV Straw Poll
Oct12 Mitt the Inevitable?
Oct06 Steve Jobs and Politics
Oct06 Palin Will Not Run for President
Sep30 Senate Races 2012
Your donation is greatly appreciated. It will buy ads to publicize the site.