The Iowa caucuses are over, and they have profoundly changed the Republican Presidential race. The South Carolina primary will show exactly how.
Iowa caucus winners and losers
The Iowa caucuses produced no clear winners. Mitt Romney got the most votes, but got only eight more votes than runner-up Rick Santorum. What makes this remarkable is that Mitt Romney spent a hundred times as much as Rick Santorum did, and yet for all intents and purposes, got the same number of votes. Rick Santorum vowed to carry on in New Hampshire, where polls show him trailing badly.
Ron Paul placed third, but a close third. He told Politico.com that his finish is “nothing to be ashamed of.” He’s right, as far as that goes. But much of his support comes from cross-over Democrats and independent voters. The independents who supported him in Iowa will likely support him in the fall, if he wins the nomination. The Democrats are likely to vote for Barack Obama, and probably voted for Dr. Paul as the weakest Republican candidate they could find.
But Dr. Paul’s more dedicated followers did something else that most sources missed. The caucuses had more business to do than cast the preference votes. They also elected county delegates to the Iowa State Republican Convention, that will actually select delegates to the Republican National Convention. Ron Paul’s followers stayed on after the preference vote to persuade their caucuses to name them as county delegates. Business Insider reports that the Ron Paul campaign got all or most of the delegate slots in counties smaller than a certain (unreported) size. So though Dr. Paul finished third in the preference poll, he might finish first in delegate strength.
Newt Gingrich finished a distant fourth. Yet he still placed a full-page ad in The Union Leader (Manchester, NH). In it he clearly said that he will carry on. He also took several digs at Romney (“thirty-second sound bites,” etc.).
Rick Perry went back to Texas, but announced later that he would still campaign actively. Michele Bachmann bowed out at 11:22 a.m. EST today, and gave no specific endorsement. Most observers point out that Rick Perry still has a lot of funds. Michele Bachmann is out of money and would have had to go into debt to campaign any further.
Jon Huntsman, who “blew off” Iowa completely, finished with one percent of the preference vote. He also was in New Hampshire, campaigning actively ahead of next week’s primary.
Where the race goes from here
Mitt Romney still shows why he earned the “Shovel Award” in his previous debates. But his victory speech seemed flat and wooden. Earlier this afternoon, Mitt Romney gave a rally in New Hampshire and drew a tepid response at best.
The real winner in Iowa was Rick Santorum. Placing second by a mere eight votes is not a loss. In contrast to Romney’s speech (see both speeches below), Santorum was much more inspiring, and gave evangelical conservatives many good reasons to rally to him. Santorum won a plurality, but not a majority, of that vote in Iowa.
And he stands to win a greater portion. Michele Bachmann is out of the race, and now Rick Santorum, and no one else, will inherit her votes. Better yet, Newt Gingrich, in taking subtle swipes at Mitt Romney, paid Santorum a compliment for running a “positive campaign.”
I wish I could say the same for the other candidates.
Nick Purpura, a Tea Party activist in Wall Township, New Jersey, told CNAV this morning that Newt Gingrich is out for revenge. Gingrich will not likely forget the attacks that Romney made against him, attacks that Gingrich ran out of money to rebut. And so the most bitter war will be between Gingrich and Romney.
Rick Perry is still in the race. Had he bowed out, Purpura guesses that his votes would have gone to Gingrich, Santorum, and Paul, in equal part, but not to Romney.
This confirms an impression that many observers have always had: that the Republican Presidential race has been between Mitt Romney and Anybody-But-Romney. Rick Santorum has the chance to be the one voice of Anybody-but-Romney, especially if he makes a decent finish in New Hampshire.
The next critical race is the South Carolina Primary. Mitt Romney will certainly win in New Hampshire anyway, because New Hampshire is the Massachusetts dormitory State, and its voters still remember Romney fondly from when he governed Massachusetts. Romney will have no such advantage in South Carolina. Rick Santorum must win the evangelicals to his side in that State if he hopes to win the nomination.
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Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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