Ron Paul, the Libertarian congressman from Texas may have peaked
almost two weeks before the Iowa caucus. If he does not win there, than
who can and will win?
No one knows with any certainty, but many Republican caucus voters
seem only half-heartedly behind their favorite candidate. The campaigns
themselves are playing an elaborate game of creating low expectations
for their results in the voting. So many political poll bubbles have come
and gone that the presumption of the final order is back almost to the
beginning when Mitt Romney was the sole frontrunner nationally and
Mr. Paul the most residual challenger in Iowa.
Iowa Republicans are, for the most part, very conservative, and include
many rural, evangelical and other social conservative voters. The party
establishment, however, is more moderate, and is led by by popular
multi-termed Governor Terry Branstad. After a considerable hiatus
during which he served as a college president, Branstad returned in the
GOP landslide of 2010 to the state capitol.
Pockets of very liberal voters, especially in Iowa City (the home of the
University of Iowa), Quad Cities and Des Moines with its large number
of labor union employees, exist throughout the state. Many Iowa farmers
are populists and progressive, a tradition that exists all over the prairie
states of North and South Dakota, Montana, Minnesota and Iowa.
In fact, a number of other farm voters, as well as Iowa suburban
voters, defy standard ideological and party categories, and fit into the
peculiar libertarian and isolationist tradition that has existed since the
last century in this region.
These voters make up much of the base of Ron Paul's support.
A new Iowa, however, includes highly-educated, white collar voters who
are younger, more affluent, and freer from political stereotypes than
their parents and grandparents. Less fundamentalist in their religious
views than older Iowa generations, but not as liberal as many students,
high school and college teachers, new ethnic voters recently moved into
the state, and activist union members, they compose a relatively new
voting bloc. These voters tend to support Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich
and might have supported Jon Huntsman had he competed in the state,
or would have supported Tim Pawlenty had he remained in the contest.
It is this voting bloc, along with undecided conservatives, who make up
the large number of Iowa Republicans who are not truly committed yet to
a particular candidate. I suspect that relatively few of them are drawn to
Ron Paul. If they stay home, or split among the other candidates, Mr Paul
will win Iowa. But if they coalesce around Romney, Gingrich, or Perry in
the closing days of the campaign, the results could be quite surprising.
This unanswered question about who will turn out on January 3 is the
source of this cycle's nagging mystery of what will happen in Iowa in 2012.
Copyright (c) 2012 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.