It’s Romney By A Perfectly Coiffed Hair
January 4th, 2012
After spending millions of dollars and campaigning more or less nonstop for four years, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney barely squished passed the late surging Sen. Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes. Santorum is now the last Not Mitt in the race, having dethroned a long line of other Anyone-But-Mitts who had held the frontrunner or near-frontrunner status over the past several months. And what a line that was, beginning with Rep. Michele Bachmann, then Texas Gov. Rick Perry, then pizza magnate Herman Cain, then former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, all of whom courted the tea party and Evangelical wings of the GOP. When caucus day came, it just happened to line up with being Santorum’s turn. According to entrance and exit polls, Santorum came in first with the tea party vote and the Evangelical vote, both by wide margins. If you were against abortion or wanted a candidate with “strong moral character,” then you almost certainly voted for Santorum. You also voted for him if you had only made up your mind in the past few days, indicating that he likely captured the vote that had been shifting from one candidate to another in search of the socially conservative Not Mitt for the past several months.
While Santorum soundly won the expectations race in Iowa, it’s hard to see how he can carry the momentum forward through the rest of the long primary season. He’s been effectively broke throughout the race, although this win will likely bring a huge fundraising bonus with it. But it will come too late to put together badly needed organizations in the upcoming races. Already, he has lost the ability to appear on the ballot in Virginia; he had no organization there to collect the signatures and turn them in. And so far, he’s been relatively untouched by the so-called super-PACs which played such a huge role in the campaign. That won’t last long now that he has their attention.
Meanwhile, third place Ron Paul’s entrance and exit poll results reveal his challenges ahead. If his critics charge that he is not a “true Republican” — whatever that’s supposed to mean these days — they can probably find data to back that up. Iowa is an open caucus state, meaning that it’s easy for anyone to show up at a caucus and participate even if they hadn’t been registered as a Republican for very long. Of those who identified as independent, Paul captured 43% of those votes, smashing the rest of the filed with that segment. He also captured 40% of those who claimed they were “moderate or liberal” and 33% of those who had never participated in a caucus before. These numbers demonstrate the challenge he faces. He came in third in a state with a relatively open caucus. We might expect him to do similarly well in other open primary states as well. But his base of support will almost certainly be sharply curtailed in closed primary states where non-Republicans won’t be allowed to easily change their registration or participate.
Which means that it now looks like the GOP nomination is Mitt’s to lose.
But while we’re discussing Paul, here’s another surprising thing about his numbers. He came in second place among Evangelicals, capturing 18% of the vote behind Santorum’s 32%. That’s comfortably ahead of Romney’s 14%. It’s also well ahead of Gingrich’s and Perry’s 14% each and Bachmann’s 6%. The latter three assiduously courted that vote and lost. Paul’s play for the Evangelical vote took place mostly behind the scenes by hiring anti-gay activist Michael Heath to serve a leading role in the Iowa campaign. It won him the endorsement of a prominent Christian Reconstructionist, who advocated for the death penalty for gay people. Not that Rev. Phil Kayser thought it should be necessary to kill very many homosexuals. Just killing a few of them “would have a tendency of driving homosexuals back into their closets.” It turns out that Paul’s campaign platform of effectively demolishing the role of the Federal Government in most affairs fits in very nicely with Christian Reconstructionsist theology, and Paul’s campaign was initially thrilled with Kayser’s endorsement. “We welcome Rev. Kayser’s endorsement and the enlightening statements he makes on how Ron Paul’s approach to government is consistent with Christian beliefs.,” his campaign announced, before quietly erasing that announcement from Ron Paul’s web site with nary an explanation. “We’re thankful for the thoughtfulness with which he makes his endorsement and hope his endorsement and others like it make a strong top-three showing in the caucus more likely.” A top three showing is exactly what he got.
As for the rest, Rick Perry is going back to Texas to find out what God wants him to do next, Michele Bachmann is bowing out so her husband can keep on buying doggie sunglasses in a totally not-gay way, Gingrich has become bored by the whole thing now that he’s not the center of attention, and Jon Huntsman — well, we’re not quite sure where he is exactly.