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Jewish World Review
Jan 2, 2012/ 7 Teves, 5772
These are the keys to who will persist
Here is only a partial list of America's most important power centers this week:
The American Legion hall in Benting, Iowa. The St. Peter Lutheran Church in Greene, Iowa. The tiny airport in Atlantic, Iowa. The Boyd Building in Shell Rock, Iowa. The community center in Lidderdale, Iowa. The fire station in Prairiesburg, Iowa. The meeting room of the Moose lodge in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The Knights of Columbus Hall in Marion, Iowa. And the Masonic lodge in Columbus City, Iowa.
This week it begins. For months candidates have canvassed and campaigned, and Tuesday night Republicans will gather in caucuses in Iowa's 1,784 precincts to begin a process that will lead to the GOP national convention in Tampa Aug. 27 and to the presidential election on Nov. 6. The campaign began unusually late and came into focus with unusual clarity late last year. Now its contours, but not its conclusion, are clear.
For the next 10 months, Americans will be preoccupied with their presidential choice, but the nature of that choice will be shaped by what happens in the next 10 days. Here is a viewer's guide for the first vital weeks of Campaign 2012, beginning with a procedural question:
How does what's happening Tuesday in Iowa differ from what will happen next week in New Hampshire?
Iowa's Republicans will begin the work of selecting convention delegates in evening caucuses rather than in the more conventional day-long primaries like the one in the Granite State. About 125,000 Republicans will travel in the Iowa cold to places like the legion hall and the Masonic lodge, there to take their stand and make their mark.
Surrounded by neighbors and family members, these Iowa Republicans often have to declare their choices publicly by clustering with, for example, the Newt Gingrich supporters in one corner of the room or with the Michele Bachmann supporters in another. This is democracy, prairie style, but it is not a secret ballot, and caucusers generally are subject to the sort of peer pressure that voters in New Hampshire's primary will avoid.
One other important distinction: Only Republicans can participate in Iowa. Independents are free to join in the voting in New Hampshire.
Will the Gingrich bubble be sustained?
The rise of the former House speaker, the subject of a House coup that almost succeeded and a House reprimand that did succeed (by a 395-28 vote in a chamber controlled by his own party), is one of the most remarkable phenomena in political history. Left for dead politically at least three times, Mr. Gingrich enters the Iowa caucuses with unlikely but, in some mid-December polls, unambiguous strength.
A victory in the Iowa caucuses would transform the Georgian's ascent from a political fluke to a political force, changing the dynamics of the political year. This is the principal question that will be determined by Iowa Republicans, who only four months ago delivered a startling (but meaningless) straw-poll victory to Mrs. Bachmann.
Will Mitt Romney's performance in the 2012 caucuses differ from that of the 2008 caucuses?
Mr. Romney won the 2007 straw poll with a formidable display of financial muscle, but he finished second to former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas in the actual caucuses. He got 25 percent of the votes, which is within range of how he is polling this time around as his late push in the state aims to stanch the flow of support to Mr. Gingrich and blunt the rise of Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. Political professionals are not expecting Mr. Romney to prevail in Iowa. If he does, that would be a signal of political power that could clear the way to his nomination.
How will Ron Paul do?
This is a question almost no one expected to be asked this month, but it could be one of the most important political indicators of the season.
The 2012 campaign is Dr. Paul's third and as Christmas approached some polls showed him leading in Iowa, with a number of them showing him in third place nationally. The mainstream media has discounted Dr. Paul's campaign. But of all the contenders, he has the most loyal cadre of supporters and the most consistent policy positions.
Dr. Paul also may have the most staying power. This is not insignificant. Nobody thinks he will win in 2012, just as nobody thought the Rev. Jesse Jackson would prevail in 1988 -- but Mr. Jackson's reluctance to leave the race boxed in Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts politically and strategically. Dr. Paul could have the same effect on the 2012 Republican nominee, and though he has indicated he will not mount an independent campaign for president, a strong showing in Iowa could change his mind.
What about the social conservatives?
These are the Iowans who changed the character of the Republican Party in the state, who made abortion one of the touchstones of Iowa politics and who catapulted the Rev. Pat Robertson into a second-place finish in 1988, six percentage points ahead of Vice President George H. W. Bush, the eventual nominee.
Each political cycle, the presence of a large number of religious conservatives draws candidates like Mr. Huckabee, Mrs. Bachmann and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania to the presidential race. Indeed, Iowa may produce two "winners": the mathematical victor and the highest-ranking social-conservative candidate. The social-conservative candidate who finishes highest will have reason to continue in the race while others withdraw.
Can the Iowa winner translate that into a New Hampshire victory?
It doesn't happen every time. Indeed, not once since 1980 has the Republican victor in contested Iowa caucuses also captured the New Hampshire primary. Since 1980, only two Republican winners of contested Iowa caucuses (Sen. Robert Dole in 1996 and Gov. George W. Bush in 2000) have won the GOP nomination, while three winners of contested New Hampshire primaries (former Gov. Ronald Reagan in 1980, Vice President Bush in 1988 and Sen. John McCain in 2008) won the nomination.
That leads us to the conclusion that Iowa and New Hampshire will be the beginning of the campaign and not the end. The two contests bear watching, to be sure. But they only tell us who will persist in the race, not who will prevail.
Comment by clicking here.
David Shribman, a Pulitzer Prize winner in journalism, is executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
12/19/11 Another Gingrich rebellion
12/12/11 A defining fight for the GOP
12/05/11 A distinct lack of enthusiasm
11/28/11 For GOPers, the winds are beginning to pick up, the horizon is darkening
11/21/11 Today's polarized politics . . . blame FDR and the political scientists
11/11/11The sporting life
11/07/11 Ron Paul, true believer
10/31/11 Why Cain isn't able
10/10/11 GOP starting over
10/03/11 The Forgotten War of 1812
09/26/11 The way we live now
09/19/11 The crisis this time
09/11/11 But what will it mean?
09/05/11 A horse race column: Who might win the GOP nomination and how it might unfold
08/29/11 The vacuum calls
08/22/11 Passion and politics: How Barack Obama and Mitt Romney got crowded into the same dangerous corner
08/15/11 Eleanor's little village
08/08/11 The agony of August
08/01/11 The politics of the impossible: What a country this might be if the political class served the broad interests of the majority
07/25/11 Pennant fever grips 'Burgh
07/18/11 Exemplar of an era
07/11/11 On summer
07/04/11 The soul of the party
06/27/11 What the Secretary said
06/20/11 Romney has big advantages over his rivals, but they will be coming after him
06/06/11 One question each
05/30/11 The 14-week challenge
05/23/11 Delay tactics
05/16/11 Republicans are waiting
05/09/11 Bin Laden is dead. What does it mean?
05/02/11 From nobodies to nominees
04/25/11 The founders left slavery for future generations to settle, and we still haven't fully come to terms with it
04/18/11 From audacious to cautious
04/11/11 Dreaming of space
12/12/10 The GOP takes control
12/06/10 DECEMBER 7
11/29/10 GOP presidential hopefuls already are lining up local supporters in what is now a red state
11/22/10 Burning down the House
11/15/10 Institutions of higher learning are finally beginning to teach important lifeskills
11/04/10 The war has just begun
11/01/10 Echoes of a speech 40 years ago this week still resonate today
10/25/10 50 years ago America chose between two men who were dramatically different --- and eerily similar
© 2011, The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Distributed by Universal Uclick, as agent for UFS.
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