Analysis of the Iowa Caucus Results

January 4, 2012

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It was an interesting night in my home state of Iowa last night.  In the Republican caucus, Mitt Romney eked out an eight vote win over Rick Santorum.  The order of finish was:

  1. Romney
  2. Santorum
  3. Paul
  4. Gingrich
  5. Perry
  6. Bachmann
  7. Huntsman
  8. Cain

I correctly predicted the 1-6 order of finish yesterday on another site of mine, Donkey and Elephant Show (I didn’t bother including Huntsman and Cain, as it was apparent that they would do very poorly).

Romney, Paul, and Santorum each had more than 20% of the vote and emerge as the front-runners.  Huntsman decided to skip Iowa entirely and focus on New Hampshire.  This ensured him of a poor showing in Iowa, but might endear him to the voters of New Hampshire.

Perry’s going home to think about things and figure out if there is a path forward.  Considering the fact that he made a huge media buy in Iowa and still couldn’t crack the top 4, I’m guessing that there’s not a path forward.

Michele Bachmann seems willing to hang in for a bit longer.  I don’t see how she’s a viable candidate.  She represents a neighboring state (Minnesota) in congress, was born in Iowa, won the Ames Straw poll, spent a ton of time in the state over the past fews months, and despite all these advantages, still managed just 5% of the vote.

Many observers felt that Santorum picked up support from the anybody-but-Romney crowd.  He doesn’t have a lot of money, and it will be interesting to see if he can raise funds to be competitive in other states.  It will also be interesting to see if he can weather the storm of attack ads that is sure to be coming.  He peaked so late in Iowa that he wasn’t the target of many attack ads.

I’m sure that Paul’s third place finish comes as a shock to many of his supporters.  Crunchy had her own predictions on Yahoo yesterday, and one commenter left this doozy of a response (excerpt)

only about 90% of those who post comments and rate them online support Ron Paul. Romney is met with disdain and Santorum, derision. While the demographics are no doubt skewed here towards thinking people as opposed to sheeple, you can’t change 90% into third place without fixing it

Unfortunately, the number of vocal online supporters a candidate has doesn’t necessarily translate into the number of voters they will get.  While it’s important to have devoted followers, they are only one part of the mix.  You also need to get votes from people who silently support a candidate – the silent majority.

What should we expect in New Hampshire?  It’s probably that Romney will pickup a win in his back yard, but it’s possible that Huntsman could pull off  a surprise.  However, if some members of the GOP are unwilling to vote for Romney because he’s a Mormon,  then a protest vote for Hunstman wouldn’t make much sense, since he’s also Mormon. 

If Romney can consistently finish in the top 2 in the next batch of primaries and have his opponents split the time in the other spot, he should be in good shape for the nomination.  A large field works in Romney’s interest, and it splinters the anti-Romney vote in a few directions and makes it harder for any one candidate to surpass his vote total.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Evan
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 12:36:58

    I think you hit the nail on the head with Santorum drawing the “anybody but Romney” crowd. In fact, I think that largely explains the see-saw public opinion for many of the candidates. I think people are just trying to find somebody who isn’t crazy, jumping from candidate to candidate when they see what their previous favorite was like. For a brief moment it was Bachman, until folks realized she is a bit wacky. Then it was Perry, until people saw he was far out there. Then it was Gingrich. Now it is Santorum. Talk to many people here in Pennsylvania and they’ll tell that the reason he got voted out of office was because he was a nut job. It is a shame that there weren’t some viable Romney alternatives. As it stands now, I think the Left is hoping that anybody but Romney gets the nomination, as he is the only one who wouldn’t implode against Obama.

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  2. Martin Kelly
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 16:04:00

    Evan/Kosmo, good calls. I failed to participate in the caucus, buy the time I had a car to get to my location the balloting had already taking place. Although Santorum may have been the “anybody but Romney” candidate, he was also the establishment choice. He had the most endorsements from sitting and former Iowa Republican leaders. This caucus actually fell right in line with what the GOP would want, stepping away from the TEA party and libertarians (although Paul did get some good representation).

    I am neither pleased or displeased with the results. I have some issues with all of the protential candidates, but none of them would keep me from voting for them in the general election. My biggest complaint is that so many of the candidates are legilators. Time and again we have seen that the best presidents are former Govorners or Generals. I complained 3 years ago about McCain and Obama in that all that they campaigned for they could do as Senators, but could not do as President. Legislators are negotiators, the presidency is a managment position.

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  3. kosmo
    Jan 04, 2012 @ 22:40:23

    @ Evan – I think Santorum managed to get out of Iowa before getting tagged with the “wacky” label. However, that could be because he looked normal in comparison to some of the others. Bachmann was referred to by multiple of my REPUBLICAN friends as “bat-shit crazy”.

    @ Martin – One of the things I don’t like about the caucus process is the rigidity of the timing. You MUST be at the location during a short window of time. I much prefer a standard primary, when you can go to the polling place at whatever time is convenient.

    As for legislators vs. governors and generals … Generals have the odds stacked against them, because unless they have a VERY high profile job (Colin Powell, etc), nobody outside the military knows who they are.

    Governors get caught in a numbers game. At any point in time, there are 50 governors and 535 members of congress – so there’s simply a much bigger pool of legislators.

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  4. Evan
    Jan 05, 2012 @ 09:12:06

    The “bat-shit crazy” tag is one I’ve heard applied to Santorum here in Pennsylvania, to the point that my more liberal friends have said they hope he gets the nomination, because he isn’t electable once he gets to be more know. I guess time will tell.

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