Yesterday, I began by arguing that the Iowa caucuses were foolishly important. It’s a trumped up exercise made important by the political entities drawing power and profit from them.
Winning the Iowa Caucuses, as Mitt Romney did by apparently just 8 votes, certainly won’t assure you a nomination. Much like a sporting event where you can lose but not win the game in the first quarter, you can lose in Iowa, but not “win.”
Michele Bachmann found that out the hard way, losing in her home state, a place she actually won the straw poll a few months ago. The beating, and frankly it wasn’t close, has caused Bachmann to suspend her bid at the White House.
In other words, she’s done. Rick Perry nearly called it quits last night, saying he’d return to Texas to reassess his campaign, the same language Herman Cain used when he dropped out.
Whether or not Perry decides to head to South Carolina (he tweeted he planned to do so), he too is finished.
In all likelihood, Santorum’s strong showing in Iowa will be relegating to a historical footnote next to a story about the closest caucus anyone can remember.
Santorum still holds just 6% of Republican support which is unlikely to change given his utter lack of charisma, not to mention the heinously homophobic remarks Santorum became famous for. Furthermore, his plan to resuscitate manufacturing jobs is exactly the kind of free market tampering conservatives detest.
That means we’ll leave Iowa with an officially trimmed field, but in reality, the pecking order of Republicans is mostly unchanged.
We still have the front-runner (Romney), the challenger (Gingrich) and the wild card (Paul).
Together they account for about 65% of Republican support nationwide, meaning the race is still presumably wide open.
Only it’s not.
Romney wasn’t supposed to win in Iowa, but he did, albeit by a small margin. The fact that he went toe to toe with Ron Paul and his conservative counterparts after a disappointing showing in the Straw Poll demonstrates how formidable Romney can be as a campaigner.
Romney is holding a commanding lead in New Hampshire, the next scheduled stop for this band of misfit Republicans, and should ride that momentum into South Carolina where Gingrich is currently a considerable favorite.
If Romney can cut Gingrich’s margin in South Carolina in half, there’s reason to believe he can win Florida outright and end the Republican race before Valentine’s Day.
Depending on which polls you read, Romney is either a slight favorite or a 15 point underdog in Florida. Like most things, the reality is probably somewhere in the middle, but as Gingrich falters, which he no doubt will in New Hampshire, how much staying power does he truly have?
After a blow out in New Hampshire, will Republicans begin to see the inevitability of a Romney nomination? Is support for Gingrich strong enough to weather an already fading moment in the spotlight?
Probably not, which leaves us with Romney and Paul, both of whom have had steady support throughout this process.
I told a friend this morning that I thought a Romney/Paul ticket may actually be incredibly appealing to moderates and a younger generation of people who support the libertarian movement, while rejecting the demands of Occupy.
At some point, the Republicans will have to determine if Paul is a big enough threat as a third party candidate to split conservative votes. Remember, Paul is the best social media campaigner of the group and his supporters are fierce. It’s not out of the realm to envision the GOP tapping into that base and picking Paul to run with Romney.
That’s a discussion for another day.
Right now, Romney remains the front-runner, a position he appears unlikely to relinquish. The only question now appears to be how fast and how many fall next?