Thursday, January 5, 2012

Iowa and Its Aftermath

Some initial thoughts:

1) My predictions were pretty darn good. I over-estimated what Romney would get which leads right into some of my other thoughts ...

2) Mitt Romney is still exceedingly likely to win the Republican nomination but he's a very, very bad candidate. It is widely known that he doesn't connect well with voters but he's actually worse at it than that phrase sounds. For more on this general line of argument, I highly recommend reading Dana Milbank's column on the post-Iowa victory tour for Romney. Better yet, see Stephen Colbert's coverage of Romney's awful post-Iowa "victory speech."

In Andrew Sullivan's words, "he makes plastic look real."

Some metrics on the shallow nature of Romney's victory:

He got a slightly smaller percentage of the vote compared with 2008
He got 6 fewer votes than 2008
75% of Iowa voters said "no" to Romney. It isn't like they don't know him. They just don't like him.

3) What of the rest of the field? Santorum is just too far out of the mainstream but he'll get a nice bump from Iowa and hang on for a while. Paul represents a totally different constituency and will stay in to the end I think. Gingrich will use his money to tear Romney down. This will hurt Romney ... and Gingrich to a lesser extent. Perry said he would suspend his campaign and then he immediately re-started it. This is the kind of crack thinking that led him to spend more than anyone in Iowa and only get 10% of the vote. Bachmann is done. Huntsman will be done after a disappointing finish in New Hampshire.

So there is nobody who can credibly stop Romney. But they can all collectively make Romney spend a bit more money, tack a little more to the right, and waste more of his time on the nomination fight than he wanted to. All that is for the good.

In the end, the Republican base will rally around Romney. But the problem in all this is not the base. The problem is how does Romney compete for independent voters and how much does he energize the Democratic base? What happened in Iowa hurts Romney in both those efforts.

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