WASHINGTON, January 6, 2012 — After the Iowa Caucus concluded early Wednesday morning, the dust settled to reveal three winners, but only two long-term candidates. Mitt Romney pulled off a less than stellar victory over Rick Santorum, while Ron Paul came in a strong third. None of the other candidates came close to matching the top three presidential hopefuls.
Soon after the caucus, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry re-evaluated their campaigns with Bachmann dropping out and Perry vowing to stay in the race until the South Carolina primary on January 21st. While this race is far from over, it is beginning to take shape. With Bachmann gone and Perry almost irrelevant, there are five Republicans left looking to win the Republican presidential nomination.
Jon Huntsman has remained an invisible man since he entered the race for President. He has failed to gain any traction among the conservative electorate, and has raised very little money to fund his campaign. Although he might surprise a few people in New Hampshire on Tuesday, he does not have the money, organization, or support to make it to Super Tuesday and will likely drop out of the running if he does not perform well in the Granite state.
The candidacy of Newt Gingrich has been floundering since a few weeks before the Iowa caucus and is not going anywhere anytime soon. His fourth place finish on Tuesday hurt him badly, and his finances and campaign organization leave much to be desired. With his falling numbers, Gingrich would be lucky to win any state before Super Tuesday.
Probably one of the more surprising stories of the campaign season has been the sudden rise of Rick Santorum, whose peak came at just the right moment: He came within eight votes of winning the Iowa caucus. As impressive as Santorum’s near victory was, it will not reflect the voting trend in later states. According to a recent poll conducted by the Washington Times, Rick Santorum’s support only rose four percent in New Hampshire after his performance in the Iowa caucus. Even if the momentum of the caucus were moving more in Santorum’s direction, he has still shown himself to be a mediocre fundraiser. The former Pennsylvania Senator will not be able to sustain his campaign on a shoestring budget as he did in Iowa. A nationwide campaign requires a great deal of money, which he just does not have.
The only two candidates with the resources, money, and organization to run a national campaign are Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. Mitt Romney has been the perceived front-runner since the beginning of the campaign, and has raised more money than any other candidate. Although he has the problem of being disliked by most Republicans, there are very few who believe that he has faced any serious challenge to his status as the Republican front-runner. The establishment is behind the former Massachusetts Governor and will see to it that he stays in the race until the very end.
Ron Paul has an interesting road ahead in the nomination process. Although his supporters may be disappointed with third place in Iowa, the close vote still helps him. Paul’s main goal should now be to win one of the early states, and place respectably in the rest of them. This will keep him in the race long enough for most of the other candidates to drop out leaving him and Romney (and perhaps a stubborn Newt Gingrich). If this happens, it will then be up to Dr. Paul to harness as much of the anti-Romney crowd as he can. That crowd is composed of several factions, including the Tea Party, evangelical voters, libertarians, and paleo-conservatives. Collectively this group makes up a large majority of the party, and it will need to work together to elect Paul.
This has been one of the most compelling and dramatic primary seasons in a very long time, and we’ve only just gotten through Iowa. Mitt Romney is still the frontrunner until somebody knocks him off the hill. Ron Paul is the only candidate with enough resources, money, organization, and staying power to pull it off. If Dr. Paul falls short, then he’ll retire from Congress as a libertarian icon, but his supporters will always wonder what could have been. If he manages to upset the establishment’s choice, then this country will truly see some of the “change” that was promised to us back in 2008.
Conor Murphy is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in political science. As a former radio talk show host on WVCW, Conor hosted two popular shows, Murphy’s Law and Son of the Revolution. You can read more of his columns in The Political Pro-Con at The Washington Times Communities.
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