Tuesday, December 27, 2011

One Week Until Iowa 2012 Caucuses

So, here we are. One week out from the 2012 Iowa caucuses. It is hard to believe how quickly this point has arrived yet it feels like it took forever to get here. To those new to the process, Iowa is exciting stuff. The first results of where candidates rank with the primary electorate, right? Well, not so much.

Remember, in a state like Iowa, it is the most committed of the activists voting and the winner rarely goes on to be the GOP's nominee.

But the Iowa Republican caucuses have a poor record in choosing their party's nominees. In the five presidential nominating cycles with active Iowa Republican caucus competition, the Hawkeye State has voted for the eventual Republican nominee only twice—in 1996 for Bob Dole, in 2000 for George W. Bush—and only once was the Iowa winner elected president.

The traditional process in place in Iowa is not for the weak. It is a two to three hour process, dragging voters out into the cold winter's night to hang out in a school cafeteria or some such less than comfy venue and it sure sounds like a tedious process. It is no show up and vote and you're done kind of evening. One nice touch this year - so far, winter has been mild by typical standards.

Iowa voters are, let's face it, spoiled. They are privy to frequent opportunities to shake hands with and ask questions of candidates. In fact, they demand it. I have heard more than one political consultant state with certainty that all the televisions commercials bombarding the folks in Iowa don't amount to very much as the voters head to the caucuses. The voters go with whichever candidate has impressed them most along the campaign trail. So, that is not such good news for a candidate like Governor Perry, for example, who entered the race late and is spending lots of money on ad buys, along with the help of a super-pac doing the same on his behalf.

It's the ground game. It must be frustrating to a candidate like Rick Santorum who up and moved his five children and wife to the state during the summer to show his dedication and yet he is still at the bottom of the rankings. Maybe he'll prove to be a sleeper candidate who does well and finishes in the top 3 or 4 to be able to continue.

With 45 percent of Iowa Republican voters undecided and a roller-coaster ride about to come to a screeching stop next Tuesday with the GOP caucuses, it may be Rick Santorum's turn to take the final ascent and surprise the political class by ... doing better than expected?

So, a full 45% of Iowa Republican voters haven't decided yet? Several candidates have made a bit deal out of scheduled bus tours of the state this week - including Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry. Newt Gingrich, detouring from the book tour, now says only about half of his bus tour stops will be met.

The candidate coming out on top as we approach January 3? Ron Paul. Strange, but true. His message is getting out and his ground force is strong. The man has been campaigning for a long time and his people are organized. His people are all ginned up and ready to go. If you have ever seen an exchange in social media between a Paul devotee and a non-believer, you know of the strong devotion he inspires, particularly among the youngest voters. Those of college age and those just past college are rabid about his candidacy.

From what is being reported from Iowa, the political ads airing have gone completely negative. Newt is all over Mitt and Ron Paul. Mitt is all over Newt and Ron Paul. Ron Paul is all over Newt and Mitt. Perry says he's the outsider. Santorum wants social issues front and center and was blessed with the endorsement of a man who presides over a large super-conservative values voters organization. The organization as a whole didn't endorse Santorum but their leader did. And, did you know that Michele Bachmann has five children and has foster parented 23 foster children?

So, yeah, it's an election year.

The anti-Romney forces are out and hanging on for dear life. It is commonly thought that Mitt Romney will be the eventual GOP candidate but it will be a long primary process. No one will drop out without a fight. I think that is a good thing and will make the eventual candidate all the stronger - think Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in 2008 - as long as it doesn't go into territory that damages the GOP in the general election by giving Team Obama so much ammunition.

One week. This Texas resident is interested but not so excited about Iowa.

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