Iowa’s old-fashioned retail politics approach — where a politician actually solicits votes from the public in person — is one that Iowans love. Still, despite the endless courting, millions of dollars in ads, constant hand shaking and town halls, polling suggests that as many as 41% of people are undecided as they walk into the caucus today to cast their vote. With its history of picking GOP nominees, people as of late have been speculating as to whether or not Iowa should carry as much clout as is does.
Since 1976, Iowa has only picked three Republican candidates who have gone on to win the nomination. None of them have won the presidency.
New Hampshire on the other hand has selected four GOP candidates in that time frame who went on to become their party’s nominee, and two of which did win the presidency. Go back a few more years, and New Hampshire’s résumé looks even more impressive, at least as far as the GOP is concerned. While Iowa does carry more delegates than New Hampshire, it has a far worse track record of picking winners.
As of Tuesday, there are three people who are capable of clinching a victory. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. While Romney and Paul have massive organizations and cash on hand, Santorum could pull off a “Huckabee” and surprise everyone.
The battle for Iowa reflects whether or not Iowa remains a legitimate contest. Should Paul come out with a victory, it would be a wakeup call for the Republican Party, especially where foreign policy is concerned. Considering that Paul’s foreign policy seems to coincide more with Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) than any Republican, it is doubtful that he will go on to capture the nomination.
If he were to capture the nomination, every pundit from Rush Limbaugh to Bill O’Reilly to Dick Morris and Michael Savage believes that he would not just lose to Obama, but that he would be crushed. The election results come November would probably end up making Walter Mondale look good.
Santorum is a solid social and foreign policy conservative, however many question how well a man who last his Senate seat in Pennsylvania in 2006 by nearly 20 points could do in a general election. Add that onto Santorum’s speeches about gay marriage and the reinstatement of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell during a time when the economy is clearly the defining issue, and you have even more wondering how seriously he can be taken.
That of course leaves Romney, a man who has grown more conservative over time, following in the footsteps of George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, both of whom won Iowa. While his past may have many conservatives wondering, there is no doubt his economic knowledge could put him in the best position to challenge Obama on his failures.
Support for Paul will serve as a thumb in the eye of the establishment, and Santorum is a vote for the ideologue. Romney, the pragmatic, technocratic conservative, still has many wary. Romney has a massive lead in New Hampshire and an even larger network across the country. Paul has the money, but his views will tremendously hurt him as the process goes on. Santorum has the passion, but not the money or organization.
Will Iowa matter after Wednesday? Probably not.
Photo Credit: IowaPolitics.com