Jewish World Review Jan 3, 2012/ 8 Teves, 5772
Mitt don't need no surges
By Roger Simon
If Mitt Romney comes in second in Iowa, the race for the Republican nomination is over.
And if Mitt Romney comes in third in Iowa, the race for the Republican nomination is over.
Why? Is his message of goodness and decency and American exceptionalism so overwhelmingly persuasive or are his personal attributes so awesomely compelling?
No. It’s because the Iowa caucuses do not pick winners as much as they eliminate losers. And the Iowa caucuses Tuesday are likely to eliminate from serious contention the only two men who might have blocked Romney’s path to victory: Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry.
With those two out of the way, Romney faces Ron Paul, who could come in first, second or third here on Tuesday or Rick Santorum, who could do the same.
But neither of those men has a credible route to the nomination no matter how well they do in Iowa.
Wait. What about this Santorum “surge” I keep reading and hearing about. Is it a fake?
No, just the opposite. It is so real, it is commonplace. No fewer than five Republicans — virtually the entire field — have experienced surges.
They have been Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul.
Santorum was the only “un-surged” non-Romney guy left (except for Jon Huntsman, who is not competing in Iowa and is probably in the wrong party).
A second point about the Santorum surge: Part of it is because the other candidates did not attack him very much. Why bother spending money on attack ads to smash a guy who was low in the polls?
This will change if Santorum does well in Iowa. In New Hampshire, we will see anti-Santorum ads. And while the editorial page of the New Hampshire Union Leader is not particularly anti-Santorum, it is anti-Romney, anti-Paul and very pro-Gingrich, whom it has already endorsed.
The Union Leader will argue in its editorials that America’s first-in-the-nation primary is exactly the time and place for “true” conservatives to coalesce around Gingrich.
It won’t happen, but the Union Leader acts on its passions and principles, not on political realities.
What if the “anti-Romney” vote did coalesce around one candidate? Couldn’t Santorum come charging out of Iowa with a first-place finish and then go on to win New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada? Wouldn’t that be the end of Mitt?
Almost certainly. But now tell me how Santorum pulls that off. His campaign in Iowa has been based on spending a huge amount of time here — a strategy that has failed many previous candidates — and telling Iowans how very special they are.
How many times can you reproduce that on a tight schedule in other states?
“Santorum has run here like he was running for governor of Iowa,” a senior Romney aide told me Sunday evening. “He can’t replicate that in other states.”
The Romney campaign believes its game plan is working here.
“Iowa is about eliminating Gingrich and Perry without us having to spend a lot of money to do so,” the aide said. “Last time, we spent $2 million just on the [Ames] straw poll, $10 million on television and had over 30 paid staffers. This year we’ve been on TV for only a month and have not spent much on ads, we’ve have five paid staffers and we didn’t do the straw poll.”
The Romney aide believes the turning point in the campaign came when Perry toned down or abandoned his attacks on Romney. “They weren’t working, and he realized it,” the aide said. “Romney’s favorables are very high, and why go after a guy with very high favorables?”
The aide said that Romney’s loss in 2008 taught him a lot. “It is very liberating to run and lose,” he said. “You learn life still goes on. I know for a fact he didn’t expect to run again. And if things were going good in this country, he wouldn’t be running now.”
The aide said that if 2004 was the “first post-9/11” election, 2012 is the first “post-crash” election. “But it’s as if we are still continuing to be attacked,” he said. “Overwhelmingly, Iowa Republicans think Obama is going to lose. I go to Romney events and I see people bringing their kids because they want their kids to see the next president of the United States.”
Is it faintly ridiculous to be talking about Romney becoming president before a single American has cast a single vote?
Sure. But the Romney campaign is already looking down the road.
“This,” the Romney aide said, “is the beginning of the beginning of the end of this nomination process.”
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