I mostly agree with Jon Walker’s take on the Iowa caucus results, and the eight-vote victory for Mitt Romney. It’s not clear Rick Santorum, to this point completely un-vetted by conservative or traditional media, will have the staying power or the resources to hang with Romney.
I thought of half a dozen things off the top of my head that will hurt Santorum, none of which had to do with Googling his name. He helped run the K Street project. He held a Social Security event in 2005 where his supporters chanted “Hey hey, ho ho, Social Security has got to go.” He compared Democrats to Hitler on the Senate floor because they were complaining about the potential “nuclear option” for judges. He once held a press conference to actually claim that he found the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq (there’s video of this floating around somewhere). That’s not a very comprehensive list.
But to the extent that Santorum can make this a race, he’s helped by a winnowing of the field. And that’s apparently what’s happening. Michele Bachmann cancelled planned events in South Carolina and will hold a press conference back in Iowa this morning. I cannot see that being about anything other than her dropping out after a sixth-place finish last night. Similarly, Rick Perry, in his campaign concession speech, said he would go back to Texas and “reassess” the results, and “determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.” Usually, that’s the beginning of the end.
So let’s at least entertain ourselves with this scenario. Perry and Bachmann drop out, and the clear choice of social conservatives becomes Santorum. Ron Paul will continue – because of the odd way that Iowa eventually chooses its delegates in a four-stage process, just by having Paul supporters stick around after the vote last night (a considered strategy on the part of the campaign), they may come out of Iowa with the most delegates, though it’s hard to say because everything is nonbinding at this point. But he still rakes in some votes, making it hard for Romney to pull away.
Newt Gingrich plans to be a battering ram, going in hard negative against Romney, who he blames for blowing him out of the water in Iowa. So Santorum doesn’t even have to go negative. If he gets any kind of surge in New Hampshire and passes Huntsman, he probably ends Huntsman’s campaign. Then it’s Romney, Santorum, Paul and Gingrich in South Carolina, with Gingrich going nuclear on Romney, Paul in territory where he’s not positioned well to succeed, and Santorum the only social con left. I mean, you can spin that out.
You can also see it another way. Romney isn’t budging in New Hampshire, where he could get close to 50% of the vote. He has begun to take on Santorum, however gently, and his SuperPAC could train their guns on him. The John McCain endorsement doesn’t mean much on its own, but it does show that the establishment is moving to Romney in a showy way.
In the end, I think Romney will have too much money and too much inside backing. But there’s at least a glimmer for Santorum, especially with the winnowing process.
UPDATE: While Bachmann did announce that she’ll drop out, Perry decided to stay in, at least for South Carolina. This is probably bad news for Santorum.