By a mere eight votes Mitt Romney may be the first Republican presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire. This is, of course, if he can stop Newt’s kamikaze mission to implode his candidacy.
In a night that was decided by eight votes, Rick Santorum surge came at the exactly right time to be seen as the anti-Romney going forward. Santorum known mainly for his conservative social agenda also stumps on a populist manufacturing economic message that he hopes can broaden his base.
The momentum that Santorum now is feeling is going to be boosted by two vital factors. First, we have Newt Gingrich stating in no uncertain terms that he congratulates Santorum and that he is going after Romney with ‘the truth’. On both Saturday night and Sunday morning the candidates will debate and Newt will be in his favoured position again: an outsider with not very much to lose. He will throw everything he has at Romney and be an effective block for Santorum.
Though Romney has New Hampshire sewn up, Rick Perry’s announcement that he is suspending his campaign means that if he withdraws Santorum may be able to capture Perry’s base evangelical voters in South Carolina which is the third state to vote in the primary season and be the de facto anti-Mitt candidate.
The person who is most enjoying this latest development in the tumultuous GOP field is President Obama who will face a much-bloodied Mitt Romney or, if Romney slips and Santorum succeeds, a social conservative that sits at the extreme right of the Republican party whose Google search results still will not change if he is the candidate.
If Iowa is to tell us anything this year we can see that the Ames Straw Poll means nothing. Bachmann who won a few months ago came in 6th with five per cent of the vote, gaining only a few more then she did at the straw poll itself. The tactics of Tim Pawlenty who dropped out after a disappointing finish in that poll look even more foolish.
Though only by eight votes, Romney did manage to win Iowa ‘on the cheap’. Whereas in 2008 he had 52 members of staff, spent $10 million and 100 days there, this time around he had four members of staff, spent $5 million and only 18 days there. Perry’s campaign went big and lost huge. He spent a huge $6 million on TV spots for 12,604 votes, translating as over $400 per vote.
All eyes now go to the debate on Saturday night to see how bad the attacks on Romney will be though if he survives the long hall to the nomination he can claim to be the first to carry both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Joel Braunold is is a Labour party member currently at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA. Follow him on twitter @braunold
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