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About last night

About last night

It was a late night, and apparently Mit Romney won by 8 votes.  Don’t let anyone tell you voter fraud is not a threat; what if this had been the general election and Barack Obama won by 8 votes in a state, would we not care that people voted without showing identification?

Big picture:  Iowa doesn’t damage Romney’s chances even though he came just under the percentage he received in 2008 (25.2%, 29,949 votes  v. 24.6%, 30,015 votes).  But Iowa does damage the “inevitability” of Romney.

That four more years of campaigning could not give Romney a boost should be a warning for the general election if he is the nominee.  The majority of Republican voters still are seeking an alternative.

The alternatives now are Santorum and Newt.  Rick Perry said last night that he was reassessing the campaign, which most people interpret as a decision to drop out.  Michele Bachmann said last night she was going on, but she has cancelled her trip to South Carolina and is holding a press conference at 11:30 (not sure if that’s Eastern or Central).

Newt obviously didn’t do well, but he didn’t do poorly enough to put him in the Perry or Bachmann category.  Newt is going on and signalled that he now will target Romney and Paul in a way he had not done before.  Her is running a full page ad in the Manchester NH Union Ledger which defines the contrasts between a “Reagan Republican” and a “Massachusetts moderate.”

If Newt has the money, and his SuperPAC finally gets active, he will do great damage to Romney in South Carolina and beyond (not sure it will make a difference in NH).  I still believe this will come down to a Newt v. Mitt race.

Santorum surged before anyone had a chance to go over his record or make the casee against him.  I will be surprised if Santorum can mount a national campaign against Romney, but of course, I didn’t think he would surge in Iowa.

Ron Paul reached his high-water mark.  He will be a factor going forward, but will not make the difference in the Mitt v. Newt v. Rick race.

Jon Huntsman has bet it all on NH.  He needs to at least come close to Romney while Newt and Rick do not need to do that.

As annoying as the Iowa caucuses are, they actually served a useful purpose if the race focuses quickly on identifying the not-Romney.


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Jon Huntsman is the Harold Stassen (or more likely the Pat Paulsen) of 2012. Who ever arranged his “Coming Out Party” should be put on a Taser until the batteries run out.

It’s still pretty clear that the Democrats want Romney and have been keeping their powder dry.

Yeah. I guess so.

Everyone should just cancel out Ron Paul’s numbers by at least 50%. As pointed out by Breitbart’s Big Government, many Occupy radicals and Dems were crashing the caucus to vote Paul. The strategy, I think, is to give Paul enough numbers to make him think he is viable and convince him to go third party thereby guaranteeing an Obama reelection. I do think Paul is smart enough to know Obama would be worse than any of the other Republicans and he won’t mount a third party run.

I’m not sure why Santorum still is seen as not being able to mount a national campaign given the new power of PACs this election season will experience. Santorum can get huge amounts of support from conservative PACs if Newt continues to fade.

The real race for conservatives now is the Newt – Santorum race.

    JayDick in reply to iambasic. | January 4, 2012 at 11:31 am

    On policy, I like Santorum. But his rhetoric leaves me completely cold. He doesn’t build a logical path from established fact to his political position. In other words, he doesn’t justify his policies very well. I think he would not be a formidable opponent for Obama.

    I don’t like Romney on several fronts. I think Newt’s characterization of him as a timid Massachusetts moderate is pretty accurate. Nevertheless, at this point, he seems the most likely to beat Obama. That trumps everything else.

I never gave Santorum much consideration (and I lived in Pennsylvania for almost 20 years). Maybe that alone says all you need to say.

However, he gave one heck of a victory speech last night. I watched both his and Romney’s, and I thought Santorum’s was much better … the TV pundits including Rollins disagreed and said Romney’s was more “polished”. E.g more out-of-touch, like the out-of-touch partisan hacks they are ;-).

The Professor’s analysis is probably correct on all the points and overflow of the campaign, and the challenges facing Santorum – one speech does not make much difference.

But I will give him at least a 2nd look to see if the person who gave the speech last night can gain traction. I was not really convinced he is good on the fiscal stuff or can govern (vs. legislate), and that is not what we need in the White House, but I’ll keep an open mind until Florida’s turn comes around (soon enough).

He is better aligned by background to go against Obama than Romney, he made that clear. And he is clearly fine on his feet in front of the press, as his last David Gregory interview proved.

    VetHusbandFather in reply to PrincetonAl. | January 4, 2012 at 10:50 am

    Totally agree with you about Santorum’s speech. I’m convinced that any analyst that claims Romney’s speech was better is already in the bag for Romney. Santorum has had his moments during the debates, and his speech last night was one of those moments. I’m remaining cautious about him as things unfold in the coming weeks.

The main reason I’m not overly worried about fraud is because it doesn’t matter that much at this point. If this was Winner takes all race then it would be larger issues but when Paul, Santorum, and Romney all get 6 delegate votes this becomes more of an issue of PR and messaging.

More to the point that is going to cause until we get pasted April 1 and all primaries become Winner takes all.

Mr. Jacobson said, “But Iowa does damage the “inevitability” of Romney.”

I disagree – this was the optimal result for Romney. It is the NRO strategy – reduce the choices down to Romney and a couple of others who are no threat (Paul and Santorum), so it defaults to Romney.

I think it was extremely foolish of Perry to cancel the SC events and talk about reassessing his campaign, which presumably means he’s dropping out. Why would such a candidate drop out after only Iowa, when his strength would be the South. He should stick it out at least through SC, but I don’t know how you could try to mount a comeback after declaring you’re “reassessing” things.

Thanks, Iowa. I haven’t had this feeling in the pit of my stomach since Obama was elected in 2008. This will be 2008 all over again. Sigh.

    GrumpyOne in reply to Astroman. | January 4, 2012 at 10:49 am

    I agree with you as well regarding the “inevitability” of Romney. However, if stability is any indicator, then Romney takes that prize by a wide margin. The fact that Romney polled a lesser total of votes as compared to 2008 must be compared to his efforts there in both of these campaigns. Romney worked Iowa extensively in 2008 but much less so this time around.

    Perry is gone, (I hope), and will return to Texas to continue his brand of machine politics here. Bachmann is dropping out. Newt succumbed to his excess baggage and inflated ego. Paul is, well Paul… a fluke in all ways.

    Now we have to focus on the replacing of Obama and put the country back on a rational path and the sooner that we realize that, the better the nation will be…

    VetHusbandFather in reply to Astroman. | January 4, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I disagree – this was the optimal result for Romney. It is the NRO strategy – reduce the choices down to Romney and a couple of others who are no threat (Paul and Santorum), so it defaults to Romney.

    As those choices dwindle down though, Romney’s percentage will stay stable while the ‘others’ will gain. Right now Santorum and Gingrich have the most to gain from Perry or Bachmann leaving. Paul and Romney won’t gain any voters they don’t already have.

    I think it was extremely foolish of Perry to cancel the SC events and talk about reassessing his campaign, which presumably means he’s dropping out. Why would such a candidate drop out after only Iowa, when his strength would be the South. He should stick it out at least through SC, but I don’t know how you could try to mount a comeback after declaring you’re “reassessing” things.

    Honestly, I get the feeling that Perry had given up after his surge dwindled. This might just be the excuse he needed to get out.

I agree with most of this post, Prof. Jacobson, but I would caution you against becoming Newt Gingrich’s Jennifer Rubin.

I wish Newt had won. The reason he lost was because the Romney ads were deadly and he didn’t respond effectively.

Congratulations to Romney and Santorum. They both ran a more effective campaign than Newt.

    The reason he lost was because the Romney ads were deadly and he didn’t respond effectively.

    John Geer at Politico makes the case that the negative adds are not as significant as Gingrich supporters would have us believe. Newt’s numbers fell nation-wide but the negative commercials were run only in Iowa. Note that the argument isn’t that the anti-Newt ads weren’t effective, just not the only reason why folks soured on Gingrich.

      JayDick in reply to bains. | January 4, 2012 at 11:39 am

      First, Newt’s numbers fell more in Iowa than nationwide.

      Second, the negativity spread to the media and was heard nationwide, although less intensely than in Iowa.

      Nevertheless, this is part of what Newt brings to the table. If it hinders him in the primaries, imagine what it would do in the general election. The rest of the primaries might give us a better feel for that.

McCain was 4th in Iowa in 2008. If Newt runs a solid campaign in NH, coming in 1 or 2, it would be serious competition for Romney.

It’s The Union Leader not Union Ledger.

Also, while JRubin is naive in ignoring the total vote count or percentage Romney received this time verses last cycle, it is similarly misguided to obsess on those numbers.

Voter fraud isn’t a threat – it’s a certainty. It’s the Official Administration Policy.

I disagree with the conclusion that Iowa makes Romney less inevitable. As the race is currently constituted, Romney is the “default” nominee. The longer he remains the default nominee, the more likely he will in fact BE the nominee. Iowa was a chance for Mitt to fall on his face; he didn’t. Similarly, NH is his next chance to fall on his face (in that case, by not winning). We’ll see how that goes. Realistically, I would think that if Mitt wins South Carolina, a lot of people are going to come to the conclusion he can’t be stopped and will climb aboard the bandwagon.

Understand this: While it may be true that the “majority of Republican voters still are seeking an alternative” to Romney, it doesn’t follow that they will ever find one amongst any of the remaining candidates. Clearly, by this point, conservatives — myself included — WOULD BE rallying to an acceptable candidate to the right of Romney if there were one to be found. There isn’t, as far as I can tell (I’ll give Santorum a look, but I have serious misgivings about his big-spending ways). So all this big talk about how Romney isn’t really inevitable begs the question of who is this white knight that people think is going to swoop in and stop Romney from getting the nomination?

Sorry, but I don’t think Newt is the white knight. He didn’t come out of Iowa with any kind renewed strength or momentum. To the contrary, he made a weak showing after having been in the lead only about 3-4 weeks ago. Iowa diminished him. You can complain all you want about the negative attacks, but Republicans know that the issues he got hammered on in Iowa constitute legitimate flaws in his candidacy. And if he can’t weather those attacks from Republicans, how will he hold up against Obama?

Note also that Newt built up a lot of goodwill in this campaign by being above the fray. If he now goes medieval against Romney, it will be at the expense of a lot of the respect and prestige he earned during the first 6 months or so of the race. And, seriously, what does Newt think he can tell GOP voters about Romney that they haven’t heard ad nauseum for years? Believe me, we get it: Mitt ran as a moderate in Massachusetts. He laid off people at Bain. Hasn’t this stuff already been factored into the price of Mitt’s stock? Perhaps Newt can damage Romney image, but I don’t think he can do that while simultaneously elevating his own stature to that of a white knight.

    retire05 in reply to Conrad. | January 4, 2012 at 11:20 am

    Conrad, you place more importance on Iowa than it deserves. Romney, Santorum and yes, even Paul, all took 6 delegates. Hardly a blip in the required 1,143 to take the nomination.

    Romney will NEVER carry the South. And that you can take to the bank. And I have my doubts he can carry the Bible belt. Even if he secures NH, he is still a long way from the brass ring.

    But the “conservative” media will continue to ignore that Romney is just another RINO in the mode of John McCain and will never report on his liberal governance of Taxachusetts. After all, with Romney, they get to maintain the status quo and marginalize the TEA Party. Can’t have the TEA Party trying to hold the D.C. elites’ feet to the fire when they are getting so rich insider trading that put Martha Stewart in jail.

      Conrad in reply to retire05. | January 4, 2012 at 11:57 am

      I think you’re ignoring how this process usually plays out in real life. Yes, Iowa only netted Romney 6 delegates, but do you think Perry is dropping out because he finds himself down by 6 delegates on Jan. 4? Usually what happens is a particular candidate starts to win virtually all the primaries, and then everybody jumps on the bandwagon.

      In regard to Mitt’s chances specifically, while I agree conservatives would love for there to be an acceptable, more conservative alternative to Romney, at some point, if nobody comes along, people will swallow hard and accept that Romney will be the nominee. If all the anti-Romney folks like yourself are serious about stopping him, I’d suggest you do it now and not figure you have plenty of time because Mitt still only has 6 delegates. (How you do this, I don’t know.)

      You mentioned that Romney is another McCain, but need I remind you that McCain won the nomination?

      As for the establish wanting to stymie the Tea Party, I’m not really clear on who the “establishment” is, but let me ask you: Who is the Tea Party candidate in this race??? I don’t think there is one.

        retire05 in reply to Conrad. | January 4, 2012 at 1:00 pm

        Conrad, hate to disappoint you, but Iowa is no bell weather vote that tells us who will wind up with the required number of delegates. A 60% track record of picking the GOP nominee is not all that stellar. 50% makes it a crap shoot.
        Remember, Iowa picked such winners as Mike Huckabee and Bob Dole.

        The election is different this year but you don’t seem to be aware of it. There will be NO nominee at the end of the day on Super Tuesday. There are only 820 delegates up for graps by Super Tuesday, and that won’t get you nominated.

        And sorry to disappoint you, but Rick Perry is NOT dropping out. He’s headed to SC where he can relate to fellow Southerners (who I am sure are just as sick of the Beltway bunch picking our nominees as I am).

        And while you point out that McCain took the nomination, I will point out that he lost the general election. So your point is moot.

        Also, I would point out to you that if you take the time to research the candidate’s actual records, there is only one person on that debate stage that is NOT more conservative than Mitt Romney. And it is Ron Paul, who is a Murry Rothbard supporter.

        As to TEA party candidates, there were two, Michele Bachmann being of of them and one is left standing, wounded, but standing. But hey, if you think the folks in Missouri, Oklahoma and New Mexico give a tinker’s damn about what Iowa thinks, continue to delude yourself.

          Conrad in reply to retire05. | January 4, 2012 at 2:35 pm

          First, I never claimed Romney would win the nomination because he won Iowa. My point was that Iowa helps Romney because he is the “default” candidate and, unless someone stops him, he will be the nominee. Iowa was a missed opportunity for someone to stop him. The further Mitt goes without being stopped, the harder it becomes to do it.

          As for Perry’s not dropping out, good for him. I’m not sure it really hurts Mitt’s chances to have Perry in, however. For one thing, I thought the conventional wisdom of the anti-Romneys was that the conservatives were splitting the vote and that they needed some of the also-rans to get out of the race.

          Please note I was a Perry supporter until the debates made it fairly clear he’s not up to the demands of being in the media spotlight.

If Perry gets out, it is truely sad because the one person who was a D.C. outsider, and was keeping the other candidates on target, will have left the race.

Santorum has been campaigning in Iowa for well over a year, even moving his family there, going to every one of the 99 counties at least once, some two to three times, yet he could not pull it off. Romney, who had the full force of the “conservative” media behind him, won by only 8 votes and took fewer votes than he did in 2008. Now the question is: will John McCain’s endorsement be the kiss of death for Romney? Many Republicans resent McCain for his absolutely dismal compaing last go-round and feel he basically handed the election to Obama.

Santorum and Romney both have the wind at their backs this morning, but you can look for Newt to start fighting back using tooth and claws. Romney IS the liar Newt says he is, and he should show what a weasel Romney is every day of the week.

The people who are jumping for you this morning is John Holdren and Douglas Foy, Romney’s “global warming” gurus who are now working for the Obama administration. They know they will have a job after the dust settles no matter who wins, Obama or Romney. And if Romney takes the nomination we will see that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Newt needs to fight like a cornered mama couger. He needs to stop letting Mitt Romney control the dialog and take control showing Romney for the northeastern RINO he is. While Newt may believe that negative ads turn voters off, Iowa should have been a wake-up call for him on that issue.

And what the heck is wrong with 25,000 Iowa caucus goers that voted for that lunatic, Ron Paul? So much for the “informed voter” meme that has been attached to Iowans.

This narrative of the “not-Romney” is completely manufactured, this is not a battle of Romney v. the not-Romney, it’s Santorum v. Romney v. Paul v. Gingrich. Each candidate has characteristics that will attract some voters and repel others. People won’t vote for Santorum because he is “not-Romney” if they think Romney better reflects their views. This is not unique to Romney, it’s how every candidates’ supporters are.

Santorum can’t just survive off of not being Romney in this nomination, his extreme social conservatism will turn off a lot of Republicans. Anointing him the “not-Romney” glosses over that fact, and it’s just lazy.

    retire05 in reply to Awing1. | January 4, 2012 at 11:25 am

    Romney has been campaigning since January, 2007, never having dismissed his campaign staff, and he still can’t garner over 25% in a state that is RINO friendly?

    Romney may take NH (he didn’t last time) but so what? Do you think he will do as well in SC or Florida?

    The fat lady has not even taken the stage yet. Don’t sell Newt out quite yet. Hopefully, Iowa was a lesson in hard facts for Newt and there is enough out there that is repulsive about Romney that needs to surface.

      Awing1 in reply to retire05. | January 4, 2012 at 11:29 am

      How exactly is this relevant to the “not-Romney” narrative?

      markn in reply to retire05. | January 4, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      “…there is enough out there that is repulsive about Romney that needs to surface” — What might that be? The Democrats are hitting Mitt on the Bain record, as I’d expect. I’d also expect that won’t resonate very much in Republican primaries. His record as a moderate governor is already an albatross around his neck in the primaries (but will be more of a positive in the general election).

    Conrad in reply to Awing1. | January 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    I dunno. I tend to think the non-Romney thing is real, but it’s completely moot if the anti-Romney forces don’t, in fact, rally behind one specific alternative.

    I also think the power of non-Romneyism is being exaggerated because, while a lot of people would PREFER that the nomination not wind up in the hands of someone like Romney, it’s not the only thing that matters to them in this election. They want to beat Obama and don’t want a nominee that they think is disqualified from the presidency for some other reason (IOW, not just ANY alternative to Romney will do).

      Awing1 in reply to Conrad. | January 4, 2012 at 12:40 pm

      My point is, the same could be said about any candidate. A lot of people would prefer the nomination not go to someone like Gingrich or Paul or Santorum. The only reason this whole “not-Romney” thing is around is because he’s been consistently at the top, not because of anything specific about Romney.

        SmokeVanThorn in reply to Awing1. | January 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm

        If you are voting for someone who is a “non-Romney” and your candidate drops out, do you vote for another “non-Romney” or for Mitt?

          retire05 in reply to SmokeVanThorn. | January 4, 2012 at 1:07 pm

          You only vote for Mitt if you want SSDD type politics from what we have now.

          There is not a nickles worth of difference between Romney and Obama; big goverment, nanny state philosophies, both of them.

I find the comparisons between Iowa 2008 and Iowa 2012 to be completely unenlightening. It’s a different time, a different field, and a totally different dynamic.

What people seem to consistently ignore is that across the entire field of GOP candidates this year (except for Ron Paul), there just isn’t any significant variation as to the direction they SAY they would take the country. In the simplest of terms, everybody is anti-Obama. Instead, the contest over the nomination seems to be focused on whether or not specific candidates are genuinely conservative and therefore seemingly more likely to undo what Obama hath wrought, which candidate is most electable, and which candidate has the tools and qualities to succeed as president. 2008 was much more of a referendum on the identity and direction of the party post-GWB. Guiliani and McCain were mainly war-on-terror candidates; Huckabee represented the evangelical/”compassionate conservative” wings, etc. (Romney arguably didn’t have a compelling case to make during the primary season, which was before the financial crisis hit.)

    retire05 in reply to Conrad. | January 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Of course the ground has changed since the 2008 Iowa caucuses. The early states are losing 1/2 their delegates and that 6 votes, picked up by the three top candidates last night, hold less value.

    And how is Romney campaigning any differently than he did in 2008 when he was solidly rejected? He’s not. He’s just as dirty now as he was then. And Newt is right about one thing, Romney is a liar.

    Tell me, Conrad, what kind of candidate doesn’t learn from his past mistakes in previous campaigns? I can tell you; it is a candidate who thinks the nomination is owed to him because he is the last one to lose.

    Romney can’t win the nomination without the South and he will NOT take the South.

      Conrad in reply to retire05. | January 4, 2012 at 2:54 pm

      Romney wasn’t “solidly rejected” in 2008; he was defeated somewhat narrowly (5 points) by McCain in NH and later in Florida, and that was pretty much it for him. I’m not sure what “mistakes” you think he’s making this time around. Frankly, I think Romney is a much better candidate today than in 2008.

I live in a county (not in IA) with about 130k people. I would bet that no one would predict anything on what the results of the collect thought of my fellow county residents, but they do IA? Crazy

The only viable GOP candidate for the not-Romney vote is now Santorum. Santorum will get crushed, like Newt, Cain and others have in the past, when his platform and past actions (especially his big government economic philosophy) get vetted in the next two weeks. (Go to Volokh Conspiracy to read an article from the Cato Institute about Santorum’s big economic govt philosopy.) Newt is too damaged to do anything.

So the GOP’s only real candidate will be Romney.

Until Trump runs as a third party candidate. (He filed in Texas a few days ago).

Henry Hawkins | January 4, 2012 at 2:22 pm

RE: The not-Romney theme (I’m not for Romney, but I’m not ‘anti’ Romney)….. Romney has consistently, since 2007 and many many millions of dollars ago, failed to win over 75% of Republicans, always stuck at about 25%. The reason he remains viable in the face of the ‘not-Romney’ dynamic this cycle is because we remain very early in the primary process – the not-Romney crowd remains split between Paul, Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum, and previously between Bachmann and Cain. New Hampshire won’t change much, but SC and FL in particular will winnow the wheat from the chaff among the not-Romneys. However it plays out, it will eventually come down to Romney and the last standing not-Romney, which looks to be Gingrich or Santorum at present.

When that winnowing occurs, all the not-Romney support (and $$) will flow to that last guy standing, while Romney himself will not see increases in support, at which time Romney will face his first concentrated, well funded opposition. Only THEN will we get an any sort of accurate measure of Romney’s true strength or weakness. If Gingrich and/or Santorum are willing to pull the trigger in response to Romney’s default negative campaigning, I think Romney’s support begins to slowly erode. I think Romney’s support is paper thin – when I read or hear his supporters, it’s rarely about what he is and has done, it’s a sort of ‘well, he’d be better than Obama’ or ‘folks say he’s the most electable’ though that is never evidenced.

RE: Santorum… Unlike the Professor, I had wondered all along why Santorum hadn’t done better in Iowa until the very end. He seemed well positioned for an Iowan GOP crowd that is largely evangelical and ever willing to vote against the mainstream or establishment. Santorum will have already begun reaping campaign donations from last night’s performance in Iowa, essentially a win given the closeness and the distance traveled in the final week. Less than two weeks ago I heard a reporter ask Santorum if maybe it wasn’t time to end his run. Underestimate Santorum at one’s own risk. He’s a got a lot of old school personal qualities that Americans pine for, he’s center-right on government policies, right of social policies, and the first torpedo fired at him already this morning (he’s Big Government!) is rather easily defended – Limbaugh has already begun that process in support. I hope his team gets that omnipresent look of constipation off his face though.

Henry Hawkins | January 4, 2012 at 2:30 pm

Addendum: Meant to add…. It is said of any first term president seeking reelection that if he’s below 50% in the polls, he’s in trouble. The GOP nomination run has emerged as a sort of referendum on Romney, who is like the incumbent, while everyone else is running for the chance to oppose Romney alone. In this dynamic, like a president seeking a second term, Romney’s inability to crack 25% is not a sign of strength. As the Bachmanns, Perrys, Pauls, etc., inevitably drop out, do we suppose their support will go to Romney? I don’t think so.

More wonderful stuff said by Rick Santorum recently (courtesy of Above the Law and the WSJ Law Blog).

“I’m a very strong supporter of the 10th amendment…but the idea that the only things that the states are prevented from doing are only things specifically established in the Constitution is wrong.

Our country is based on a moral enterprise. Gay marriage is wrong. As Abraham Lincoln said, states do not have the right to do wrong…..

I will get involved in that because the states, as a president I will get involved because the states don’t have a right to undermine the basic fundamental values that hold this country together. America is an ideal. It’s not just a constitution, it is an ideal. It’s a set of morals and principles that were established in that declaration, and states don’t have the right, just like they didn’t have the right to do slavery.”

Santorum Soundbites on the Judiciary, 10th Amendment [WSJ Law Blog]