I’ve been wrapping my brain around the results of Iowa. As I’ve said before, I do not place too much stock in Iowa or New Hampshire. To me, it seems that they have always been niche markets that cannot independently translate easily to the rest of the country.
However, taken together, they allow us to ‘bracket” the sentiment of GOP voters—Iowa fairly well representing a heartland position while New Hampshire giving a glimpse at the coasts.
Because of this, my analysis must remain incomplete until next Tuesday.
Even so, I did want to consider the field after part of the puzzle has been laid before us.
I will do my best to evaluate the candidates’ positions coming out of Iowa, and moving into New Hampshire, and even into South Carolina.
Iowa spelled, as I suspected, Bachmann’s swan song. If she could not muster a better showing out of the heartland, it was obvious that she had to fold. It was a correct move for her to exit the race when she did. Bachmann carried 5% of the vote. We can argue that her nationwide support is also somewhere around the 5% mark. Anti-Romney candidates will pick up her 5% while Romney will get ZERO benefit from her dropping out of the race. Her exit has a negative effect to Romney’s campaign.
Perry has paused to reconsider his campaign in the wake of Iowa. The only thing that has prevented Perry from dropping out at this point is his pride. ANYTIME a candidate “pauses to reconsider” their campaign, they are projecting weakness to potential voters. If Perry DID have a chance of continuing, he killed it with this course of action.
In short, Perry is no longer a player. I expect to see him drop out of the race sooner than later. Perry did carry a little over 10% of the Iowa vote. I suspect that this figure may be a little higher than his nationwide support. I’d be more comfortable working with an 8-9% figure.
A departure from the race for Perry unlocks a decent percentage of Anti-Romney votes that will be picked up by other candidates, but will not benefit Romney. We can expect to see around 8% up for grabs, but Perry’s exit will be a negative effect for Romney.
Paul is a HUGE winner in Iowa, but not for the reasons one may think. No one believes that Paul will get the GOP nod—I suspect that even Paul understands this.
I personally believe that Paul remains in the race only as a force to alter GOP ideology and policy. His showing in Iowa accomplishes that mission.
While I am not a Paul supporter, I DO feel that Paul’s presence in the race does have an overall positive effect on the primaries.
Paul is in a unique position. He gets to keep on talking, while none of the other candidates really challenging him. Why? Because it is a waste of energy with diminished potential gains and much potential risk.
All of the other candidates would be wise to ignore Paul. Paul will not get the GOP nod, so he is essentially drawing dead. Romney can reap NO returns from going after Paul.
The anti-Romney candidates need to remain favorable enough to Paul’s supporters that there is at least a few percentage points of cross-over should Paul drop out later on. Therefore, there is nothing to be gained by addressing Paul.
ALL understand that Paul supporters are not a group that could be converted away from Paul easily. The only possible way that these may be gained is outlasting Paul and being favorable enough to be seen as an alternative to those that are not willing to vote 3rd Party.
Should Paul exit the race, Romney will be the net loser—more Paul supporters would look to the anti-Romney candidates than will look 3rd Party. None will convert to Romney. Therefore, it is in Romney’s best interest that Paul remains in the race as long as possible.
It should not surprise anyone that Santorum had the showing that he did in Iowa. With the negative ads that Romney ran against Gingrich, Iowa voters were looking for an alternative to Gingrich. Perry had already been courted, and Bachmann never really materialized. Santorum was the next-in-line for anti-Romney voters.
Santorum will get to ride high for a bit. No one expects him to do well in New Hampshire, and therefore a dismal showing will not be that much of a negative for him. A strong showing in would be a HUGE boost for him. However, the real test of Santorum will be South Carolina. Without a strong finish in South Carolina, I suspect that his campaign will falter.
I personally do not believe that Santorum will have the legs to make it to the finish line successfully.
Where Santorum serves a purpose is a spoiler for Romney. The longer that Santorum stays in the race, the better off Romney is. Therefore, Romney would be better off ignoring Santorum while attacking Gingrich. Should Santorum run out of steam, this would represent a huge negative impact for Romney.
Prior to Iowa, no one expected Newt Gingrich to do well in the caucus. The results were as predicted. He was relentlessly attacked, and the attacks worked. A poor finish in Iowa for Newt Gingrich is—in no way—a death knell for his campaign. He held a little over 13% of the Iowa vote. I suspect that this number is in-line with his national standings at this time. While I think it would be extremely premature for Gingrich to consider leaving the race, I would consider the impact of his departure as a wash. By this, I mean that his support would roughly split itself between Romney and Anti-Romney candidates. I do think that more of his support would go toward anti-Romney candidates, but I don’t think that it would be 100%.
As it is, I think that Newt has reason to still be in the race. He could still take it with decent showings in New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Remaining in the race potentially allows him to pick up a good portion of Perry’s and Bachmann’s supporters. I am not certain as to how much he will get, however.
I’ve really addressed him in all of the other candidates’ situations. Romney seems to be stagnant at 25%-ish nationwide. That isn’t a favorable position to be in.
Romney’s best course of action is to continue to hammer on Gingrich while ignoring both Paul and Santorum—he needs both to remain in the race as spoilers.
I will not address Huntsman beyond this: He has not been a player, and he will not be a player in this race.
At this stage, I still see the main players in the game as Romney and Gingrich.
Paul is important as an ideology manipulator. Santorum is a spoiler for the anti-Romney faction, and will be unless he can solidly unseat Gingrich in South Carolina.
Gingrich has to walk a tight-rope at this time. He does need to go negative on Romney, but he should not expend too many resources here.
Gingrich MUST court Santorum’s voters. Therefore, he cannot go too negative on Santorum. However, he MUST get Santorum out of the race as soon as he can. Remember, Santorum’s presence is a net positive for Romney. Simply put, if you want to beat Romney, you have to eliminate Santorum without angering his supporters.
Gingrich’s best angle would be to paint a vivid picture of what a Obama-Santorum POTUS race would look like. He needs to make people see how Obama’s machine will deal with the fundamentalist Santorum. He needs to show Santorum as utterly unelectable against Obama.
In this race, all it takes to sour a candidate’s support is to make them believe that Obama would beat them.
Either way, Santorum or Gingrich have to fall out for the other to survive. We’ll know who that will be in the results of South Carolina.
At the end of South Carolina, I suspect that we will have a field of Romney, Paul, and either Gingrich or Santorum (but not both). This would be an ideal situation if you are anti-Romney.
Romney hovers around 25% support nationwide. Paul seems to be somewhere around 10% nationwide. That means that there is 65% of the vote out there that is essentially anti-Romney outside of Paul’s supporters (who are in their own category).
Romney still has a long way to go, and I don’t see it as all that favorable for him.
At any rate, that is my take at this point. It may change as the situation evolves.
On the mark? Anyone see it differently?