<a title=”GOP 2012 Clown car in 3D by dengre.bj, on Flickr” href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/5813765368/”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5263/5813765368_b1a979ac25.jpg” alt=”GOP 2012 Clown car in 3D” width=”500″ height=”457″ /></a>
With the Iowa Caucus looming in the news cycle I thought I would offer some guesses as to the outcome. When the dust settles, the final results will matter very little, but the spin will drive the news cycle for a few days, help to shape who stays in the race against Willard, and either bust or inflate Iowa Caucus myth.
Polls project a close race between Willard, Paul and Santorum, with each of them at around 20% of the vote. Nate over at 538 gives them a 42%, 34% and 20% chance to win the caucus respectively. The only other candidate he gives a slight chance of winning Iowa is Gingrich, who has a 3% chance of pulling it off.
PAC Money has poured into Iowa and blanketed the state in negative ads–mostly focused on Gingrich and mostly ran by groups supporting Willard. Legend has it that Iowans do not like negative ads and punish the candidate behind them, but so far there is no sign that Mitt’s Attack PACs are hurting him. We’ll know if that part of the Iowa myth is busted in a few hours.
In fact, we’ll know if the entire myth of Iowa is busted in a few hours. If Willard wins, it means that a candidate can ignore Iowa and still win their caucus. With enough money and negative ads you can buy the state. If Willard pulls that off, then the myth of retail politics in Iowa that justifies the Always-First-in-the-Nation-Caucus will be busted. OTOH, if Iowa offers some surprises and somehow punishes Romney, then the myth of Iowa’s importance will live on in the State and–more importantly–in the village.
With that in mind here are my two cents:
- The Iowa Caucus system and the State’s ability to justify going first every four year is in jeopardy. The outcome will either feed the myth of Iowa’s importance or bust it. I think a lot of Iowans will take that in mind as they go to the caucus. A lot of folks will vote to protect the caucus system and that means NOT voting for Mittens.
- Willard will not break 24%–even if he comes in first. I think it is more likely that he’ll get around 20-22% of the vote and comes in third behind Santorum and Ron Paul. If he has a real bad night, he could even come in fourth behind Gingrich.
- The surge for Santorum reflects–in part–that he showed the Iowa caucus game respect. He did the retail politics thing and built an organization. He connected with folks who think that candidates should treat them special because they live in Iowa. He will be rewarded for this and gives the undecided folks–especially the deep wingnuts–a place to go. He is peaking at the right time and I would not be surprised to see him win with 28-30% of the vote.
- Ron Paul has also treated the Caucus game with respect and I think he will be rewarded as well with a strong second place finish with around 24% of the vote.
- Gingrich was late to give the caucus game its propers, but he has been spending a lot of time there in the last few weeks playing catch up. He may also be benefiting from some blowback against the endless negative ads that Team Romney has been running against him. In the last few days polls show some Newtmentum. I think he comes in fourth with 16-19% of the vote, but if Iowans decide that they really do not like Mittens he could get more. Regardless, I expect Newt to proclaim himself the “come-back kid” and start to go after Willard hammer and tongs in South Carolina and Florida where folks love good bloodbath.
- Perry and Bachmann will fail to break single digits. One or both will drop out in the coming days or weeks.
- Huntsman will continue to be irrelevant.
- The overall turnout for the GOP Iowa caucus will be low–in the 85,000 to 90,000 range.
- It would not be surprising if the Democratic turnout for their caucus beat the Bush turnout in 2004. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if turnout for the Democratic Iowa Caucus became one of the surprise stories out of Iowa.
Now I fully expect to be wrong here and there (or everywhere), but I thought the unpacking of the clown car in corn country might be a good starting point for a late night open thread.
Welcome to 2012. We’re glad you made it.