The Iowa Caucuses… What the heck happened?

Like most people not living in Iowa, I was baffled last night to see Santorum come out on top in the Iowa Caucuses. He hasn’t been in the news, hasn’t had strong performances in the debates, and hasn’t been all that successful in promoting himself. So how the heck did he end up winning? 


I’ve been doing some reading today and he was actually pretty ingenious in his methods in Iowa. He didn’t have much money so big time advertising wasn’t possible, and he didn’t make much of a splash in any debate (I thought he seemed like a combative jerk with no real substance in the debates, but his rants were brief) or national polls so his opponents ignored him and fought among themselves. While they were busy lashing out at each other and doing damage to the “big” candidates that were supposed to do well, like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, he was visiting every county in the state and having small meetings with social conservatives/Christians/etc. every day and building a strong grassroots network of people that had actually met him and talked to him and were therefore theoretically more loyal. It obviously worked. He got a huge chunk of the “evangelical” vote and no one landed a real blow on him before the primary to scare any of those social conservatives away from his ticket. I think it’ll be a different game now and the increased visibility will lead to his campaign imploding (like Rick Perry), but it was a clever and cheap way to make a lot of noise in the early primaries. 


As far as where this is headed, I was glad to see Bachmann close up shop after Iowa, and I really expected Rick Perry to do the same. I’ll be surprised if he survives until February, there is just too little substance to his platform and too many missteps to allow most people to take him seriously as a candidate. I think Santorum will fade simply because he also doesn’t have anything really going for him other than a clever campaign strategy in Iowa that he can’t really repeat in other states now that he is in the spotlight, and he doesn’t have the funds or the overall appeal to survive the whole process. He might raise a ton of money due to Iowa I suppose, and he might get a good portion of the hardcore evangelical crowd until a good smear ad comes out about him, but I can’t see him being a serious contender for the nomination. Huntsman seems to be betting it all on New Hampshire but I don’t see that working out well for him. He’s also just not particularly likable when he is on debates or interviews, and isn’t very well funded, so I don’t see him lasting long either. That’s where things get interesting though, because The Romney-Ron Paul-Gingrich line up it a lot harder to get a feel for. 

-Romney has been consistent in his level of support but consistent also means he’s been stagnant overall. I think this is because he’s just not that exciting or interesting. He doesn’t appeal to the social conservatives due to some past stances and recent “changes of heart” and people like me don’t like him much because he comes off as just another slippery politician that says very little of substance. But he’s a favorite of the cynical Republicans who just want someone they think can beat Obama and find him as the least objectionable overall, so he’s not to be underestimated. 


-Ron Paul has a very loyal following and a high anti-establishment appeal due to his views and voting history, but isn’t loved by the social conservatives due to his hands-off approach to some issues they feel strongly about and he alienates some that might support him with his foreign policy views and near fanatical rants about gold and the Fed. 


-Gingrich is an interesting candidate simply because he’s been through every kind of political trial by fire I can imagine over the years and yet still somehow survived and evolved to become a contender. He comes across as the most rational and intelligent in debates and has a relatively interesting platform, but his past also makes him really easy to run a smear campaign against as the last few weeks in Iowa has proven. 

I have no idea how this will all play out of course, but I think it will be interesting to see how New Hampshire and South Carolina play out and who gains support when people like Rick Perry and possibly Santorum or Huntsman close up shop. 

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Filed under 2012 Election, Bachmann, Candidate, Caucus, Gingrich, GOP, Huntsman, Iowa, Paul, Perry, Politics, President, Republican, Romney, Santorum

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