SALT LAKE CITY, January 1, 2012 ― It’s a New Year. How about some daring prognostication?
Mitt Romney will win the Iowa caucuses on Tuesday. He might not set people’s hearts aflutter, but he has been solid and consistent. And while much has been made of his inability to attract more than 25% of Republican voters to his flock, he is well liked by most Republicans, and is a second choice for many more.
The staid and dependable caucus-goers will show up for the former Massachusetts governor.
Since Romney will win, Ron Paul will not. This column has predicted two things in the past few months relative to Rep. Paul. The latest is that he may win the Iowa Caucuses. The earlier prediction was that he would never win the nomination.
Paul was well positioned to snatch victory a few days ago, but his poll numbers have flat lined just below Romney’s, and one poll suggests a slight decline. Recent accounts tell the tale of his crowds thinning somewhat at his various events around the state. As was the case with earlier frontrunners and top-tier contenders, Paul’s recent position in the polls has attracted more media scrutiny. The results—from distasteful newsletter clippings to bizarre comments about Bilderbergers—will not sink his campaign, but they will dent it enough to slightly reverse momentum.
Paulites will tell you that their intensity will drive his votes up in the caucuses. Yet, the super-devoted Paul supporters never got above 10% in Iowa. It was only after Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich faded that Paul absorbed much of that support. The Real Clear Politics average currently has him at 21.3%.
Voters, especially in discussion forums like the caucuses, often behave differently than they might in theory when a pollster calls. The voters who typically rule at the caucuses are older and more temperamentally conservative. Ron Paul is no conservative in that sense, even calling his campaign a “revolution.” It is much more likely that the undecideds break toward Romney, Santorum, or Perry than to Ron Paul.
To win, Rep. Paul will need his young followers to turn up at the many libraries and schools where the caucuses are held. It will be a new process to the great majority of the young voters, and the unfamiliarity might be enough to turn some of them away or at least dampen the fire in their collective belly.
Finally, there are still many undecideds in Iowa, and it is hard to see any significant number of them going to Ron Paul. Republicans are Republicans for a reason. They don’t like drastic change. They don’t like provocative pronouncements. And they don’t like the idea of nominating someone who will not beat Obama. Fair or not, all three, to some degree, describe Paul. If more Democrats could participate in the Iowa Republican caucuses, perhaps Paul could win.
But the participants are long time GOP activists who are impassioned by the tried and true messages of a socially conservative party; the kind who long ago gave Michele Bachmann a straw poll victory and then put Rick Perry in the driver’s seat. The former, whose campaign is on its deathbed, is the anti-Paul. Her spirited attacks on the Texas congressman will probably give those who preferred her last summer some pause about Ron Paul.
Paul will make a very respectable, and potentially party-rattling, showing for second place on Tuesday. But he will not win.
It is hardly going out on a limb these days to say that Rick Santorum, who has been in a slight surge, will show well on Tuesday. He will finish in third, and will be in a good position to continue his campaign.
Newt Gingrich will not do well. Finishing outside the top three will be a mortal blow, and as a smart and calculating politician, he will bow out.
Gingrich could, of course, remain in the race until the southern primaries, where he is still poised to perform well. Yet his fear of a strong Ron Paul showing in the later races will be the impetus for him to exit. It was only days ago that the former speaker was labeled the number one anti-Romney. Ironically, he is now the anti-Paul. He might well see his service to the GOP as attack dog against the insurgent Paul, whom he loathes much more than Romney or any other potential nominee. Knowing he won’t become president, he will do the honorable thing, as he did in 1999.
2012 will be a year for momentous political events. Momentous enough to be fit for bold predictions.
Learn more about the author at Rich-Stowell.com
Rich is a teacher and a soldier. He is the author of Nine Weeks: A Teacher’s Education in Army Basic Training; Tunnel Club; and Not Another Boring Textbook: A High School Students’ Guide to their Inner Conservative, which you can follow on Facebook.
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