Jan 23, 2012

January 2, 2012: Caucus in Iowa, Field Divided, How Well He Runs

The nation will tomorrow witness the beginning of the all-too-shortened process of selecting the nominees for the major parties’ presidential nominations.  On the Democratic side there will be no contest with the incumbent Barack Obama running unopposed in his bid for re-nomination by the Democratic Party.  On the Rescumlican side of the ledger, however, the past, and momentarily at least, front-runner Mitt Romney is being opposed by at least half a dozen lesser lights in his latest bid to become the presidential nominee of the party of greed. 

Deep in the heart of the plains lies Iowa, the first contest in this election year.  As noted previously the process of selecting delegates for the respective parties conventions is a rather convoluted one in the ‘Hawkeye” State.  Of the 1.3 million or so eligible voters in the state, some 120,000 or so will gather in at some 17,000 caucus sites throughout the state.  These sites range from churches and school auditoriums to citizens living rooms and barns where the faithful of each candidate will gather, listen to some speeches and then cast ballots.   Those groups representing candidates that fail to reach a “threshold” level of strength, around 15%, will then either leave or be asked to switch their votes to another candidate, much like what would occur at a state or national conclave if we ever get to witness another convention go past the first ballot.  In this way a ‘dark-horse’ candidate can gain strength, move up into the top tier or perhaps pull an upset much as the “Huckster” Mike Hucklebee did four years ago in upsetting the plans of Mitt Romney. 

It is an odd way to begin such an important undertaking, restricting as it does participation to a miniscule fraction of the electorate.  It favors candidates who are ‘one issue’ or
‘ideologically pure’ as well as those candidates who have built an organization in the state.  For in the final analysis, the outcome depends more than anything on the ability of your campaign to identify ardent supporters and insure that they get out into the cold night, show up at the caucus, and fight for the candidacy.  While lacking the ideological support of the idiot-wrong, Romney has built a respectable organization which, hopefully, will have learned a lesson or two since the set-back four years ago. 

 Romney is also favored by having the fundamentalist base of the party fractured in it’s divided support of the candidacies of Ron Paul and the up-and-coming Rick Santorum, former Senator from Pennsylvania and darling of the supply-siders who the good people of Pennsylvania had the sense to expel from the Senate some years ago.  Nevertheless with the nosedive taken by ‘Baby Huey” in recent weeks, as Romney and others began a telling series of negative ads simply citing Gingrich’s record and behavior when he was last a player in Washington, the brain-dead base of the party has moved toward Santorum seeking a less flamboyant and more suitable substitute.  While Santorum is polling ahead of all others among the fundamentalist base of the party, his lead is only a few points ahead of Ron Paul with Gingrich trailing a not-so-distant third. 

 What one must keep in mind about this process is that on the Rescumlican side of the ledger most of these contests are winner-take-all, meaning that one can claim all the delegates with a mere plurality rather than a majority of the return.  As long as Romney is opposed by two or three contenders on his political right, he can carry the day and claim the lion’s share.  It is in his interest to keep the candidacies of at least two, possibly three, such ultra-conservatives alive at least until the process has wound it’s way through the Southern states. 

 The exercise in Iowa will not necessarily determine the nominee.  What it will do will be to  define who has emerged as a ‘top-tier’ candidate, with the top three or four--depending on how closely they poll together--receiving the boost they need by way of media attention and subsequent campaign donations.  From this perspective it appears that Romney, Paul, Santorum and, perhaps, Gingrich will survive Iowa.  The candidacies of Michelle Bachman, Rick Perry, Huntsman will take a serious body blow.  The question for Romney is holding it together thru New Hampshire and then finding a way to survive the Southern primaries.  If he can hang on in the South, he has the inside track to the nomination.  The Question for the conservative wrong is whether they can decide which candidate to rally around in order to deny the Mormon the nomination.  Given the divided opposition it appears that Romney has some open field, how fast it closes on him will depend on how well he runs.

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