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Iowa: what it really means (and what it really doesn't)

There’s a bit of confusion coming out of the contest in Iowa.  Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were separated by only eight of the 122,255 votes cast. The implications of this, however, might not be what you think:

What it doesn’t mean:

  • Rick Santorum is a 50/50 chance to get the nomination.
    He’s not. He did well in Iowa, after a late surge in a socially conservative state that voted for Huckabee in 2008. He’s certainly in a better position than he was two weeks ago, but I still wouldn’t peg his odds at more than 5%
  • Romney is in trouble
    Romney massively outperformed expectations in Iowa. He spent very little time in the state, and it has never formed a big part of his strategy. His team also managed expectations incredibly well, so that an 8-vote win is actually a major victory.  Romney’s campaign is right on track
  • Obama will wipe the floor with either of these guys
    It’s tempting to think  that Obama will be in for an easy time in the fall because of the strangeness of the Republican nominating process, but that’s simply not the case. Once the GOP has its nominee, they’ll unite around the candidate and start attacking Obama. People vote on the economy, and the economy isn’t great. Whether it’s Romney or someone else (the latter unlikely), Obama will be in for a tough run in 2012.

What it means:

  • The run is definitely over for Bachmann, probably for over Perry, and possibly over for Gingrich.
    Iowa might not tell us who did win, but it’s good at telling us who definitely won’t. Candidates who built a campaign for an Iowa-friendly demographic and haven’t done well will likely get out of the race. Plus, New Hampshire is expensive and, without a strong showing in Iowa, these campaigns are likely to struggle to raise cash.
  • Ron Paul can’t win, but won’t quit.
    He’ll stay in it a while, but he can’t win the nomination without winning Iowa. Really, given his antagonistic relationship with the Republican powerbrokers, he was never going to win it anyway, but any chance he had went when he fell 3,796 votes short of the winner.
  • Santorum will get lots of media attention.
    The “Santorum surge” is the story of the week, not Romney’s winning it.  The media need a story to tell, and “Romney’s nomination is all but certain” isn’t going to sell much advertising, so the conflict will be played up over the week. At the same time, Santorum will get the same media vetting that Caine, Gingrich, Bachmann and Perry all endured.
  • Romney will get lots of money
    Strategic donors are smart. They will see the way the nomination contest is going, and start to donate to Romney. And as Romney gets more money, his ultimate success narrative will built, and the whole thing will become a self-reinforcing snowball which will barrel its way to Super Tuesday, when Romney will lock up the nomination.
  • People should have listened to me earlier this week when I recommended bets on Romney at $1.30 to get the nomination
    He’s now paying $1.07

One thought on “Iowa: what it really means (and what it really doesn't)

  1. Nice theory Rohan – that’s exactly what Reoublicans said in 2008 when they wrapped up their nomination early in favour of McCain whilst Democrats spends months fighting it out between Hillary and Obama. Didn’t quite work out that way (and as Democrats rightly pointed out at the time, it allowed them to build turnout organizations in lots of swing states like Ohio and Indiana, and register lots of independents and unregistered voters as Democrats for the very first time).

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