If you are like us and have nothing better to do with your lives than watch the wall to wall media coverage of the Republican primary process; then you are probably scratching your head about all the to do surrounding the upcoming Iowa Caucuses. One minute the pundits are frothing about the importance of Iowa in picking the Republican nominee. The next minute they are laughing about Iowa’s irrelevance in the process. So what gives? Is Iowa a big deal or not?
Historically the Iowa Caucuses have had very little impact on picking the eventual Republican nominee. In fact their record stinks. In recent history Iowans have picked the eventual nominee only twice: Bob Dole in 1996 and George W. Bush in 2000. Only Bush made it to the White House. Mike Huckabee in 2008, Bob Dole in 1988 and George H. W. Bush in 1980 all won in Iowa but failed to get the nomination.
Iowans have had better success on the Democratic side…but not much. Their selection of Edmund Muskie, Tom Harkin, Pat Robertson and Pat Buchanan, none of whom won the nomination, overshadows their limited success. Perhaps most notable was 1976 when Iowans handed a victory to “uncommitted”. Jimmie Carter came in a distant second.
As the saying goes: “As Iowa goes…so goes Iowa.”
Consequently Iowa’s weak track record and fly over status garner little respect from the national media. The fact that Ron Paul, who is given little chance to win the nomination and zero chance of winning the Presidency, currently leads in Iowa only furthers the media’s generally dismissive attitude.
But this year is different. Pundits are paying very close attention to Iowa; and it’s not because Iowa is the first time people actually get to vote. Iowans can make a difference in deciding who wins the nomination. Here’s how.
Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are currently in a statistical tie for the lead with Santorum surging 6 percentage points behind. If Iowans give Romney the win the thinking is that Romney adds this win to his assured victory in New Hampshire and the nomination is his before the primary season has barely started…game, set match. The other primaries will fall in line.
But if Iowans give Paul the win, and they will be the only state to do so, they will give his campaign momentum. Paul will lose in the remaining primaries but he will still be in the race. Emboldened by his Iowa victory and subsequent modest showing he will elect to run for President as a third party candidate. This will be a disaster for Republicans. Paul’s third party candidacy will steal conservative votes from Romney and hand the Presidency to Obama. So anything that gives credence to Paul’s campaign ultimately hurts the Republican Party. And it all starts with Iowa.
We have been to Iowa. We even spent some time with Iowans over the Christmas holiday. As a general rule they are hard working fiscally conservative folks who believe in limited government. They are pro life and pro gun. They believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman and they are not fond of the idea of gays serving openly in the military. They are more likely to be found marching with the Tea Party crowd than the Occupy Wall Street bunch. They are generally evangelical Christians in whose lives God and religion play an important part. Ron Paul and Rick Santorum speak to them…Barak Obama does not.
Iowans have an important choice to make. Do they make a "values" statement and throw their support behind Ron Paul or even Rick Santorum, men who cannot possibly win the nomination or a general election against Obama? Or do they get in line behind traditional Republicans with a unity vote for Romney?
Lost in all the noise is the one candidate who we believe would really give the President a run for his money: Jon Huntsman. Sadly for Republicans, Huntsman is not on anyone’s radar in Iowa.