Thursday, January 27, 2011

Romney shouldn't skip Iowa

I think Mitt Romney would be slightly crazy to not make a full hearted effort to win the Iowa Caucus. Here's why:

-If Mike Huckabee doesn't run, Romney would start out tied for the lead in the state! If you allocate all of Huckabee's supporters to who they said was their second choice on our poll there earlier this month you would end up with Romney and Sarah Palin tied for the lead at 23% each with Newt Gingrich at 18% and no one else with double digits. This is not a state where Romney would have to be coming from behind. Choosing not to compete there would basically be an admission that you assume you're going to blow it.

-Iowa Republicans aren't that conservative, at least compared to Republicans in the country as a whole. Our poll for the caucus earlier this month found that 21% of GOP voters in the state considered themselves to be members of the Tea Party. Our last national poll for Daily Kos put that number at 30% for the party's voters overall across the country. Another measure of the state's comparatively moderate Republican electorate- 69% describe themselves as conservatives to 29% who are moderates. The national GOP primary poll we conducted last week found it at 73% conservatives and 25% moderates. Romney's problem right now is appealing to voters the very conservative wing of the party but that's not quite as large in Iowa as other places.

-So let's say Romney loses Iowa but then wins New Hampshire and Nevada. Sounds similar to Hillary Clinton in 2008. That places a ton of importance on the primary in South Carolina and just as was the case for Clinton that does not seem likely to be a good state for Romney next year. We haven't polled the state in a long time- although we actually will next week- but we do have Republican numbers in North Carolina coming out tomorrow and Romney barely cracks double digits at 11%, putting him in a distant fourth place. Any momentum Romney got from winning in New Hampshire and Nevada could quickly be deflated by getting blown out in South Carolina and put him in a weakened position heading towards Super Tuesday.

The biggest obstacle to Romney winning the nomination might be his Southern problem. If he can run the table in Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada he has the potential to clear out the field before that even becomes an issue. Hard to understand why you would write off the possibility of doing that.


Andrew Carden said...

I happen to think Romney can still lose South Carolina after having won Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada. That'd put the SC winner in the same spot as John Edwards in the '04 primaries, and, while Romney would be a rather overwhelming front-runner, he wouldn't be able to put the nomination away for a while.

FWIW, I think we might well be looking at a scenario more akin to the '08 GOP primaries. That is, Huck takes IA, Romney NH/NV, and Romney needs some southern dude (Gingrich and/or Barbour) to keep Huck from winning SC.

Unknown said...

If Romney wins New Hampshire and Nevada and finishes second in Iowa, he can survive a 4th place showing in South Carolina.

The south is only a problem if a lot of it votes among the next states. We don't know the calendar yet, but McCain benefitted immensely from having Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut through Super Tuesday.

Scott said...

I think the 2012 GOP nomination is Huckabee's if he wants it. If he runs, he'll win Iowa. He'll not be expected to win NH or Nevada, so even a decent showings -say 3rd place - in those states won't hurt him. He'll then take on the full force of Romney's campaign in SC and win (Huckabee would have won SC last time if Fred Thompson hadn't continued his hopeless campaign). After that, Huckabee will have all the momentum heading into his home state of Florida. If Huckabee wins Florida, the race is over. If he doesnt, he can wrap it up on Super Tuesday (and Saturday) by winning Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah and Louisiana.


Anonymous said...

In a normal year, Romney wouldn't need to fear anything in Iowa, since he's apparently strong in NH and NV. Leading that clearly while being not that far behind in IA would play out for him, and then he could lead a campaign built on electability.

However, this time he'll probably be the candidate most hated by the tea party, and a messy IA campaign against him could weaken him elsewhere as well.

If Huckabee doesn't run, the normal year scenario would be more likely again, but I think he's just letting Romney play frontrunner so the tea party can attack him - and Huckabee would jump in when Romney is weakened.

The Interesting Times said...

Blue State Republican, Huckabee is from Arkansas, not Florida.

Florida has leaned towards Romney for some time. He would likely win it in 2012.

With 31 states polled so far, Romney and Huckabee both win between 9 and 11 of them. So the two contenders are essentially tied right now statewise.

It's actually somewhat more complicated than that, since several of Romney's states are bigger and will send more delegates to Tampa in 2012. In my rough delegate count, Romney currently leads Huckabee 634-517, assuming Romney wins both Michigan and New Jersey. If Huckabee wins New Jersey, Romney still leads Huckabee 582-569. Likewise, without Michigan Romney still leads Huckabee 586-565. Only if Huckabee wins both New Jersey and Michigan would he lead Romney at this point, 617-534. So in terms of the delegate count, Romney and Huckabee are again essentially tied, with a slight advantage for Romney.

It in fact gets even more complex (and more difficult for Huckabee) when you consider the order in which the states hold their primaries. Of the six early states polled, Romney wins three (New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida), Gingrich wins two (South Carolina and Louisiana), and Huckabee wins only one (Iowa). Romney would have quite a bit of momentum going into Super Tuesday, as would Gingrich. Huckabee's candidacy, on the other hand, would be looking deflated as he went into Super Tuesday.

There's still a probability that Huckabee could pick up some of the slack on Super Tuesday, but he would have to fight against both Romney's and Gingrich's momentum and his own corresponding inertia to do it. Don't forget that Giuliani also tried holding out for Super Tuesday in 2008--and he ended up winning no states whatsoever. It's a gamble.

Huckabee's best chances for winning would be if Palin or Gingrich or both declined to run, or dropped out very early on.

Until then, Romney remains the Republican frontrunner, though by less of a margin than in the past.

Anonymous said...

The Interesting Times, Huckabee moved to Florida last year and also spends significant time in New York. His voter registration is currently in Florida, making it his current home state. See

Overall, I don't think that Huckabee will be able to win the Republican nomination. With Wayne Dumond, at least he had some insulation in that it was actually the parole board that made the decision. With Maurice Clemmons, he is more clearly at fault. Without his clemency adjustment, Clemmons would not have been eligible for parole. His was the first in the series of failures that left Clemmons free to murder.

It's also possible to run television ads using Wayne Dumond's picture while mentioning both Dumond and Clemmons. Questioning how he might act towards terrorists might ice the cake. However, Romney might be reluctant to go negative in such a large field.

Someone like Thune or Santorum might do so in a bid for a vice presidential slot. Thune would make a better VP pick for Romney, as Pennsylvania is too close to Massachusetts. Santorum would be better suited for someone like Barbour.

Unknown said...

The primary dates aren't set. The RNC has set dates for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada, and South Carolina will be in February. States that divide up delegates proportionally would be permitted to vote in March and winner-take-all states would go in April.

the State Committee of the Arizona Republican Party are petitioning Jan Brewer to do their primary in February. Arkansas, Illinois, and Montana have all moved their primaries back. California is considering having theirs in June to coincide with the primary for all other offices. Ohio is scheduled for March.

Florida is scheduled for January 31, before the other primaries. The GOP has asked them to move it back. If they don't we could see the massive move forward by a lot of states.

It's likely we know the first 4 states, but after that we don't know. They could be states that favor Romney or ones that favor the more conservative candidate. They could be caucuses, advantage Romney, or primaries.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Interesting Times. Romney still leads Huckabee in overall projected delegates across the board despite a potentially poor showing in SC and the South. The 2012 nominee may not win SC. Remember Romney is the favorite in CA and the West. While CA is big, other western states all add up and will push Romney above the target. Although Palin is popular in the West when push comes to shove Romney will close the deal in the western states.

Also, Thune, McDonnell or even Pawlenty could be good VP picks for him.

Jimmy Noel said...

Do you guys know which state has the most moderate GOP members?

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