We’re back and just in time to bring in the New Year with our Iowa Caucus predictions, though sadly not in time for the most recent Des Moines Register Poll that would have made our lives a lot easier. C’est la vie, I guess. Our caucus predictions are below:
Ross Freiman-Mendel: Predicting the winner of Iowa caucuses is a fun exercise, but caucus goers will not deliver the eventual Republican nominee. Ron Paul will win in Iowa on January 3rd, with Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney finishing in second and third, respectively. It’s also noteworthy how these predictions show how irrelevant the Ames Straw Poll was in its predicative powers.
Ron Paul’s latest controversy spurred by his old newsletters underscores the fact that the conservative establishment considers him a real threat. The Texas Congressman will maintain his lead for three reasons: his idealistic, consistent message; the lucky, albeit fickle timing of the scandal during the dead news cycles of Christmas and New Years Eve; and because he’s defter than Rick Perry, Herman Cain and Newt Gingrich in his ability to maneuver his own political baggage. Defections from the Bachmann campaign are also telling, in addition to Paul benefiting from unique state rules dictating who can vote in the caucus.
Rick Santorum will surprise all, narrowly inching out Mr. Romney. His persistent yet shortsighted approach to Iowa has and will continue to pay dividends, as he begins to surge at just the right time. In the words of Paul Gigot of The Wall Street Journal, “Mr. Santorum is all moral values all the time.” Unfortunately for Mr. Santorum, Iowans hardly reflect the composition of the Republican electorate, and his deeply Christian campaign has little national appeal.
While Mitt Romney will place a close third, the loss will benefit him immensely. It’s well known that a loss in Iowa can do just as much for a candidate as a win, just look at George H.W. Bush’s third place finish in 1988. The pressure from other candidates has finally enlivened Mr. Romney, who up until now has been boring and uninspiring. Just recently he compared President Obama to Marie Antoinette and Newt Gingrich to Lucille Ball. This heated rhetoric is good omen that the candidate is finally willing to sling some punches.
Chip Lebovitz: The anything-can-happen mantra surrounding the Iowa Caucuses is a bit misleading. Right now, models created by the usually reliable Nate Silver of The New York Times tracks frontrunner Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the caucuses at 47 percent, Congressman Ron Paul’s chances at 37 percent and Rick Santorum’s chances at 7 percent, making the likely winner either Romney or Paul.
While Romney may be the frontrunner, Silver’s model shows that a Romney win isn’t exactly a sure bet. In 2008, Romney spent about $10 million in Iowa, an incredibly large amount in a state where ad time is relatively cheap; for his $10 million, Romney ended up with 25 percent of the caucus vote. In 2012, Romney will have spent a significantly smaller amount – only around $4 million – and is expected to receive roughly the same percent of the vote, 23 percent, according to the most recent NBC News-Marist poll. So given these numbers, Romney is probably locked into support levels in between 23-26 percent, even with his last minute all-in position.
On the other hand, Congressman Ron Paul is banking on his established, well-oiled organization supported by an incredibly devoted following that thrives at events like the caucuses, which depend more on passionate followers willing to go beyond normal voting. That said, all the candidates and the party establishment have pummeled Ron Paul in recent days. His foreign policy and racist newsletters have received frontrunner levels of scrutiny that’ll probably confirm the rap that Paul can’t win the nomination in the long run.
That doesn’t mean he can’t win the caucuses now though, and that’s something I think he’ll do. Paul’s victory and the subsequently spun narrative as insignificant or beneficial to Romney, makes the third place that much more valuable. The almost inevitable Santorum Surge – inevitable really in the search for the non-Romney – is going strong, perfectly timed for this week’s caucuses. Santorum will probably capitalize on the other evangelical candidates’ recent snafus to snag a comfortable third and the proverbial last ticket out of Iowa, surprisingly validating a retail politicking heavy strategy in an Internet age.
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