Friday, December 30, 2011

Countdown to Iowa

The Iowa caucuses are just a few days away. As it approaches it appears that the state is up for grabs with varying polls placing Romney and Paul in the lead. A few quick observations and thoughts.

Bachmann’s collapse.
This is one of the interesting stories to tell, tracing her victory in the August straw poll to what is certain to be poor finish on Tuesday. She is hoping that the 45% undecided break and that she is the recipient. No chance. The numbers do not suggest it. As Gingrich has faded his support has gone in three directions–Paul, Santorum, and Romney. Moreover, she has little chance to recapture the momentum after her manager defected. Bachmann is already a political zombie–walking dead–before Tuesday and really cannot not do much next Wednesday baring a miracle. Even then, she has no infrastructure to go beyond Iowa.

Paul’s day in the sun.
Paul will do well and still may beat Romney. He has a loyal following of young much like Obama 08 and one issue will be whether with school out that helps or hurts him. Paul’s GOTV is terrific and it may carry the day. He has taken a hit with his 1990s newsletter but it is not clear what impact that will have. Paul will have legs beyond Iowa and he may be a gnat to Romney as the latter seeks to consolidate.

Gingrich as Mr. Nice Guy.
Who would have ever thought of Gingrich as Mr. Nice Guy? The attack ads worked on him and he did not respond. He failed to remember the rule–define or be defined. He let his past define him and has lost momentum in the polls.

Santorum’s surge?
One poll has Santorum in third. He has benefitted from the other conservatives collapse (including Bachmann) but does he have the organization actually to deliver bodies on Tuesday?

Romney’s resurgence?
Iowa was a loser for Mitt but now he has a chance to win it and then New Hampshire the next week. He benefits from the mistakes of others and by being the consistent second choice of everyone else. In a field where there is some disarray perhaps simply holding on to 25% is enough.

Perry's Irrelevance.
What is left to say? He has put his foot in his mouth so many times his breath must smell like shoe polish. He has no momentum and appears to be spending all his money here with hopes like Bachmann that something breaks for him.

Are the GOP in trouble?
One dumb headline this past week said that there was a crisis with the GOP because going into Iowa there was no clear frontrunner or choice. Is it not the purpose of the primary and caucus system to select the nominee? It used to be that the conventions selected nominees and the crisis was if there were no clear favorite then. Then the fear was that going into the convention there was no clear favorite. Now it seems that there is a crisis if there is no favorite going into the caucuses and primaries. This is jumping the gun. Think of Iowa as the start of a decision-making process that is supposed to produce a nominee. The nominee is not supposed to be decided before the process starts.

Yet the GOP still face problems in terms of a message, perhaps nominating another Goldwater like candidate, and also via lack of support among Hispanics, Blacks, and other key constituencies in some swing states.

Obama’s problem.
Remember once a Democratic candidate running for reelection with high unemployment, slow growth, a large deficit, and rising gas prices? This was Carter in 80. We all know the economy is not a great issue for Obama but gas prices may also hurt him, too. Reports this week suggest $4 gallon gas this summer. Spikes in gas prices will not help him. Look to see another potential tapping of the Strategic Oil Reserve this summer.

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