2012 Presidential Campaign

Rick Santorum the real winner in Iowa as the curse of Mitt Romney returns

Mitt Romney might have won the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday night, but it was a hollow victory and certainly nothing to brag about. For such an experienced and well-backed figure as Romney, an 8-point victory over Rick Santorum is a defeat by any other measure. Romney should be miles ahead, and the fact that he is not shows that he still faces a huge challenge as he attempts to persuade the Republican base to support him.

It was Santorum’s night. A month ago he was being written off by most (including, for what it’s worth, by me). But he poured resources into Iowa and ended the night on 24.5% of the vote, identical to Romney. Given the nature of elections and the vote-counting process, 8 votes is a tiny number and is certainly within the margin of error. There will be no recount, according to Republican party sources, but that’s kind of irrelevant.

Santorum still is extremely unlikely to mount a strong challenge for the Republican nomination, but his role as a spoiler could be crucial. He has shown that Romney is vulnerable. Many of the flaws that emerged in 2008, when it became clear that a large proportion of the Republican support base couldn’t really get behind Romney, seem to be still in place today. Conservatives would be right to wonder whether Romney can garner the support from within the party that he would need to beat Barack Obama, even if on paper he appears to be the party’s best shot at the White House.

Ron Paul came third, which will probably be a disappointment to his followers. But just three percentage points behind Romney and Santorum, he is still very much in this race and it’s interesting to note how he trounced the likes of Newt Gingrich (13%) and a flailing Rick Perry (10%). For Gingrich, this was a bad night but not a disaster, and he expects to perform much better in New Hampshire next week. For Perry, it looks like the end, and he could be out of the race before the next vote. Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, secured 5%, barely ahead of Jon Huntsman (1%), and it looks increasingly likely that Bachmann’s only decision now is when and where to announce her withdrawal.

There’s another vote in a week, in New Hampshire, which will make the picture clearer. Iowa has long been a bit of an oddity, with a patchy record of picking the ultimate Republican candidate. Romney is still very much in this race, and things might not be as bad for him as others suggest: yes, he was effectively beaten in Iowa, but ‘only’ by Santorum. The real threats to his victory are Paul and Gingrich, neither of whom put in a stellar performance. The party faces an uncertain few weeks, waiting to see whether Romney still has enough name recognition to limp over the finish line in first place.

About Michael R. Gideon

Writer, teacher, dog walker, guitarist, husband, father, reader, journalist etc. I mainly write at 100gf | Politics and Computers, but occasionally at other sites such as TV Vomit and Indie Bookspot. My Google Plus profile.

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