Without publicly predicting any outcome in the extremely volatile Iowa Republican race, I can still entertain the “ifs” by postulating a number of different scenarios which take into account Iowa’s potential impact on how candidates will have to position themselves moving forward.
It’s a Gingrich Night: Anti-Gingrich Republicans will have reason to fear, because Gingrich, who until recently was the clear frontrunner in the race, will take advantage of an Iowa win to make a serious case against Romney in New Hampshire. After that, it’s on to South Carolina, where he’s already a favored conservative. This race has fluctuated a lot so far, and if Gingrich, who has polled at or near the top of the field recently, can fight the Paul surge, it will bode very well for his nomination prospects. The real concern, though, is that his surge has waned as effective attack ads have aired. Even if Gingrich comes out with a win, as ads continue to level claims in the next primary states, his leads could diminish as fast as they have in Iowa.
They Call It for Romney: The only way Romney doesn’t get out of Iowa looking worse than he did before is if he wins and avoids an embarrassing second-place finish. Luckily, he still has a lot of hope in the polls, and his recent resounding endorsement from Christine O’Donnell (R-OZ DE) has, for better or for worse, made rounds in the news. Romney has to battle his elitist image, however, and Iowa is his best chance to do so. He still seems in good shape for New Hampshire, but a less-than-ideal Iowa finish could change these prospects fast (remember how once-frontrunner Clinton had to fight for New Hampshire in the last few days after losing Iowa to Obama in 2008, winning only in a stunning upset). Luckily, his endorsement from Governor Haley in South Carolina and his soaring popularity in Nevada make those two states places where he has the potential to build momentum and surge in the delegate count. Regardless, Iowa might not be too fun for Romney and make things harder for him – unless he wins. If Romney takes Iowa, he will be in a very, very good position to simply tie a bow on the nomination and get ready to debate the president.
Paul Wins: It’s not much of a secret that Paul is doing very well in Iowa polls, to the point where, if the stars align just right, this top-tier candidate could very much make this a race. I would wager that Paul would have to win in Iowa to have a shot at the nomination, but if he does, he suddenly has a very good one. Some who know what they are talking about disagree and feel that Paul could perhaps leverage his popularity and delegates to influence the eventual outcome. But it is important to remember 2008, when the charismatic Obama suddenly surged post-Iowa, and became competitive nationwide, when it became clear that he actually had a shot at the nomination. There is a possibility that something similar may happen with Paul. Paul has the most committed Iowa voters so far, and so he could very well take the state. If he does, this charismatic libertarian’s youth-powered movement could begin to make serious waves nationwide. The Republican race would suddenly become very interesting – and the GOP would be forced to take seriously the prospect of a nominee many are not quite fond of.
Bachmann Does Half-Well: If Bachmann does somewhat well, which she could, seeing as she is a native Iowan who serves a congressional district next door, the other compassionate(less?) conservative candidates will have little spark left in their campaigns. This race doesn’t have room for Bachmann, Perry, and Santorum, and the polls show this. Bachmann seems best-positioned out of the three due to her “native daughter” status, and if she does well, she could assume the social conservative mantle in the race.
Perry… Nope, there’s no good scenario for Perry. Perry’s faux-pas have made enough news, and though the media would probably be thrilled to have his Palin-like penchant for gaffes continue on during the campaign season, America seems terrified by the prospect of having the president, while making cuts, pull Agency-Number-Three out of a hat in 2013.
And Who’s Immune to the Iowa Results? Santorum and Huntsman. And this is not for purely cynical reasons. Well, yes it is… for Santorum – he is not going to win the nomination, so obviously losing badly in Iowa is not going to mean much. For Huntsman, however, I would say there is still hope. His time in New Hampshire is slowly paying off, and he can now claim about 12% support there. If Romney takes a hit in Iowa, though he’s still the New Hampshire favorite, Huntsman has much to gain. His moderate stances could resonate with Granite State voters much like Romney’s kind-of-sort-of-used-to-be-moderate stances do now.
So there you have it–my non-expert political musings on Iowa. Postulating about what could happen is always fun, and I’d be interested to know how others think Iowa could shape the race for the White House. And, not forgetting Huckabee’s win in 2008, does Iowa even matter?
Image Credit: Chris Yunker, Flickr, via Wikimedia Commons: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Farm_Road_near_Williamsburg.jpg