Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Big Top in Iowa

The circus in Iowa is finally reaching its grand finale, and it's clear that there are three rings: 1) the Clown act/trapeze of the rising and falling Tea Party/evangelical dramatic players; 2) the ongoing barker performance of the Romney Show; and 3) the trained dog-and-pony show on the highwire of Ron Paul's libertarians.

I am somewhat amazed by Newt Gingrich's late drop in the polls, as I thought he was somebody that people knew, so that the inevitable dogpile once he emerged from the pack of right-wing hopefuls would not be as effective as it was. I don't even blame Newt for his fall, though his organization was always a vulnerability that massive negative advertising was able to exploit (just like Newt's past).

It is perhaps less surprising that sanctimonious Rick Santorum now has his moment in the sun, even though the polls have recorded only in the last few days; he is a true believer in the religious right credo who has put in his time and effort. The fact that he was routed by 18 points in his last Senate race in Pennsylvania is something he has somehow managed to obscure from those desperate for a trusted white male conservative mouthpiece. Bring him on, I say; we should be so lucky.

Once again, Romney gains from the chaos in the non-Ron Paul/anti-Mitt portion of the Republican electorate. With Romney and Paul each maxed out in the 20-30% range in Iowa, the other 50% could either be split fairly evenly among the four remaining right-wingers (Gingrich, Michelle Bachmann, Santorum, and Rick Perry), which would ensure Paul and Romney finish 1-2 (or 2-1), or someone can dominate among that group and secure a spot to challenge Romney in future primaries in the South and other favorable terrain (like the Midwest, Rocky Mountain states). Gingrich's fading currently makes it look like no one will emerge in Iowa. This will mean that Florida and South Carolina will be the last chances for a surviving right-winger (a couple should drop out no later than New Hampshire's primary) to challenge Romney head-to-head and prevent an early Mitt victory.

Once again, with Gingrich fading and Santorum rising, Paul at the peak of whatever percentage he can draw, and Bachmann and Perry appearing to be close to the end of their runs, it is unclear around whom the anti-Romney, non-Paul faction will rally, and if they don't get it straight very soon, it will be over. Republican establishment politicians all over the country are in line to endorse Romney and get it over with; they are going to need a pretty strong reason to hold off past January.

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