Although Mitt Romney has been the frontrunner for most of the 2012
pre-primary/caucus season, and Newt Gingrich has made a remarkable
comeback to become his major challenger, it might be useful, less than 40
days from the first voting in Iowa, to take a look at the other candidates and
see how they might do before time and resources run out on them.
In Iowa, Michele Bachmann is pulling out all stops to remain viable for
the rest of the campaign. An Iowa native who won the August Iowa Straw
Poll, and with a significant Iowa organization, especially in the socially
conservative religious community, her low current poll numbers may not
accurately predict her true strength on January 3. She no longer appears to
be as well-funded as she was several months ago, and she has to do well,
that is, a second-place finish or better, in order to keep her effort credible
going into New Hampshire and South Carolin where she also has serious
organizational and media efforts.
Rick Perry was not too long ago expected to win the Iowa caucus, but
following poor performances at several candidate debates, his poll
numbers have nose-dived, and he is no longer considered a first tier
candidate. Nevertheless, Mr. Perry has lots of money in his campaign
treasury, and if he could somehow convince Iowa voters to take a
second look at him, he might do better than expected., and be able to
compete in later primaries.
Herman Cain was a media target for allegations about his private life as long
as his polling “bubble” showed him to be a contender. Now that his numbers
have fallen, the media stories have seemed to stop. Perhaps the larger reason
for his polling decline, however, was his performance in the debates where he
seemed not to have the grasp of the issues displayed by most of his rivals.
It is now unlikely that Mr. Cain will regain his former standing in any of the
Ron Paul has his greatest base of support in Iowa, has run there well in a
previous cycle, has a loyal libertarian following who are likely to turn out
for the caucus. His results are the most difficult to predict. There is a chance
he could win in Iowa, a better chance he might come in second, an odds-on
chance he will come in third or fourth. Beyond Iowa, however, he has only
a small (albeit loyal) following in most other states. His successful fundraising
means, however, he can stay in the race until the end. If he did win Iowa, it
would mean that the caucus results here would become regarded mostly as
irrelevant. Iowan voters probably will not to choose such a self-inflicted
political wound to their "first in the nation" status.
Rick Santorum does have some conservative support, and has spent much time
in Iowa, but even if he does better than expected, it will not be enough to enable
him to compete credibly past New Hampshire. John Huntsman has, more or less,
ignored Iowa, and concentrated on New Hampshire where there were signs he
was receiving some attention from Granite State primary voters. Newt Gingrich’s
recent comeback and endorsement from the state’s most influential newspaper,
however, may have torpedoed Mr. Huntsman’s opportunity to thus gain vital
traction in the early voting.
Most likely, we are coming to a critical contest in the next six weeks between
Mr, Romney and Mr. Gingrich. The timing of the rise of the latter in the polls
could not be better, and there is little question that Mr. Gingrich will be the
darling of the news headlines for the next several weeks. But now he must face
an aroused Mitt Romney and his campaign staff who now realize that they must
compete seriously in Iowa and try to head off the Gingrich phenomenon before
it gains unstoppable momentum.
I think the first round of this battle went to the former speaker when he stated
his broad immigration policy that called for long-time illegal residents who have
become positive members of their communities to remain in the country. I
believe that strategist/historian Gingrich wanted Mr. Romney to attack him for
this, which the former Massachusetts governor promptly did, thus putting
Romney on the wrong political side of an issue that will be vital to Hispanic
voters in 2012. It was therefore a sophisticated “chess” move, and has given Mr.
Gingrich an advantage as the primaries head south and west. I also don’t think
the Gingrich stand will hurt him very much in Iowa and New Hampshire, as
conventional wisdom might suggest it would, but only actual results will decide
Although Mr. Romney’s support has not gained much from his poll numbers
in the 20s, he has shown much resilience in the campaign so far, holding his own
in the debates, and successfully portraying himself as someone in charge. His
campaign caution has proved a good strategy to date, although with a major
challenger now of Mr. Gingrich’s stature, he will need to come out of these
safe political shadows and engage fully in the contest if he is to prevail.
Friends and foes of Mr. Gingrich have lately been making the point that he is
capable of self-destruction and fumbles, but so far he seems carefully
pursuing a strategy that fuels his sudden rise in the polls.
This is an election cycle with incessant ups and downs, It is also a cycle
in which the Old Media dominance has been overtaken by considerable
impact from New Media, including internet networking, conservative
radio talks show hosts, as well as a more independent and skeptical
International economic circumstances, revolutions in the Middle East, and
political upheaval in Europe, as well as the chronic domestic U.S. crisis, all
make surprises very possible in the eleven months before Americans
choose their next president.
Iowa and New Hampshire should be interesting overtures in the U.S. 2012
election opera, but there will likely be several dramatic acts to follow.
Copyright (c) 2011 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.