After Iowa: Bloodied Romney on course for nomination as Obama smiles


 

Mitt Romney emerged bloodied with an Iowa caucus win of just eight votes over Rick Santorum this morning – the tightest finish in the party’s history; Marcus Roberts reports

Barack-Obama-Mitt-Romney-Rick-Santorum
Surging evangelical (and holder of questionable race views) Santorum whose performance in Iowa was nonetheless dismissed by former White House speech writer Jon Lovett as “a huge milestone on his journey to never being president”.

In his semi-victory speech, Governor Romney downplayed the result by speaking of how his campaign had had 52 staffers in Iowa in 2008 whilst this year had only five. Given the closeness of the result, that decision to not properly engage with Iowa voters on the ground forcing him to rely instead on negative ads in the air war may cost his brand dear down the road.

For the story of the night was the dramatic escalation of GOP in-fighting, epitomised by a remarkable (non)-concession speech by Newt Gingrich who described Governor Romney as “a Massachusetts moderate who, in fact, will be pretty good at managing the decay” and promising to “draw contrasts” with the man he blames for a deluge of negative ads that saw his brief bubble burst.

Forecasting what will likely follow, former top Romney strategist Alex Castellanos tweeted:

“Campaign insiders say 3 wars Next week: Perry to kill Santorum, Newt to bomb Romney, Paul-close range nuclear weapons against everyone.”

While Major Garrett of the well-respected National Journal wrote:

“Gingrich knows he’s crossed a campaign Rubicon. With most of the results counted, he failed to finish in the top three in Iowa, and Gingrich knows he won’t have the money he needs or wants to respond ad-for-ad in New Hampshire or South Carolina.

“That means Gingrich must earn media attention he cannot buy. The only way to earn it is to roast Romney as a phony conservative and a poll-driven flip-flopper.”

Expectations of a surge in GOP caucus goers fell short with turnout at roughly the same level as 2008, leading Salon editor Joan Walsh to tweet:

“If GOP voters are supposed to be fired up to beat Barack Obama, why didn’t Iowa voter turnout jump this year?”

The President re-elect campaign basked in the messy Republican result. The New York Times lavished praise on the Obama campaign’s own work in Iowa describing it as “the best organized campaign in Iowa” with “unrivaled organization”.

They add:

“The campaign opened an unprecedented eight offices in Iowa and boasts of 1,200 grassroots events such as training sessions, house parties and phone banks; 350,000 calls to supporters; and 4,000 one-on-one meetings.”

Obama for America press secretary Ben La Bolt, meanwhile, announced:

@BarackObama’s campaign recruited more than 7,500 new volunteers in IA tonight.”

As progressive strategist Lisa Naomi said:

“Obama recruited more volunteers than people voted for Bachmann.”

Critically for Romney, however, the two biggest threats to him finished out of the running, as primaries expert Ron Fournier argued:

“The two biggest threats to Romney finished out of the running: Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. Their donor bases and political standing made them the most likely candidate to emerge as a conservative alternative to Romney.

“Now, suddenly, they are limping out of Iowa.”

Governor Romney is still on course to win the nomination: Governor Perry will likely drop out; John McCain’s endorsement will help bolster his New Hampshire firewall; and Santorum has little time or money to build a true national campaign.

But Romney is likely to do so with a more divided party split between its evangelical, libertarian and establishment wings and under fierce fire from Newt Gingrich, who ex-Presidential advisor David Gergen said on CNN “is determined to bring Mitt Romney down, no matter the cost”.

See also:

Sign up to our new weekly email on US 2012 and election news from across the globe, The World Outside Westminster

Iowa 2012: Meet the candidatesChris Tarquini, January 3rd 2012

Romney remains least risible Republican candidate for another weekAlex Hern, November 14th 2011

USA 2012: Cain self-destructs, and Huntsman attempts to drag Romney into the frayAlex Hern, November 1st 2011

Republican elephants enter the room as rivals to ObamaDominic Browne, May 26th 2011

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