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Wednesday, 04 January 2012 06:30

Iowa: Romney, Santorum and then Paul

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Mitt RomneyFormer Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney eked out an eight-vote win in the Iowa Republican caucuses January 3 with just under 25 percent of the vote, ahead of second place former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum (also just under 25 percent), in a tight six-way race that included Ron Paul pulling a close third place at nearly 22 percent.

Romney used the narrow victory to target President Obama in his victory speech. "He said three years ago, after being inaugurated, he was on the Today Show, and he said look, if I can't get this economy turned around in three years, I'll be looking at a one-term proposition. And we are here to collect." Romney is viewed as the Republican frontrunner, and is far ahead in the polls in the upcoming New Hampshire primary. But he actually trails in polls in other early primary states, such as South Carolina and Florida. Romney's campaign is seen as the most viable because of his position in the polls nationally and in New Hampshire, as well as his fundraising ability. Romney has raised more money than any of his Republican rivals, and is the top recipient of donations from employees of elite Wall Street banking concerns such as Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Bank of America. According to entrance polls in Iowa, Romney drew heavily from votes from establishment and veteran Republican functionaries, which carried the state for him.

Contrasting with Romney's cautious and presidential speech, Rick Santorum pronounced "Game on" with his surprising late surge in Iowa. "Thank you so much, Iowa, for standing up and not compromising, by standing up and being bold," Santorum told supporters after news organs announced the results. "You have taken the first step toward taking back this country." The under-funded Santorum campaign — focused upon Iowa for six months — now faces the challenge of carrying its momentum to other states where he has campaigned in only a limited way. Santorum carried most of the social issues voters in Iowa, and may have a difficult time in states such a New Hampshire without Iowa's strong social-issues-voters presence. Moreover, he faces ballot access challenges in Virginia, where he won't be on the primary ballot.

For the close third-place finish, Ron Paul pledged to accelerate his campaign. "This momentum is going to continue and this movement is going to continue, and we are going to keep scoring, just as we have tonight." Ron Paul dominated independent- and young-voter segments, according to entrance polls conducted by media at the caucuses. "Back in the old days in the early '70s, Nixon said 'we are all Keynesians now,' which meant that even the Republicans, they believed in liberal economics. I'm waiting for the day when we can say 'We are all Austrians now.' " Paul was referring to the free-market Austrian school of economics, which he says helped him alone in the presidential field accurately predict the housing and financial crisis of 2007-08.

Paul's campaign also capitalized on a technical issue where Iowan and active-duty military Cpl. Jesse Thorson, a Ron Paul supporter, was cut off in a CNN interview by a satellite fade out. "He was on TV tonight — he didn't quite get to finish his statement," Ron Paul said in his caucus-night speech. Paul gave Thorson an opportunity to finish his statement. Thorson, who was described in the CNN interview as a man who had done two tours of duty in Afghanistan, said: "If there's any man out there who's had a vision for this country, it is definitely him. His foreign policy is definitely — by far — better than any candidates out there," Thorson added: "We don't need to be picking fights overseas."

Paul stressed: "We all know where the active duty military send their money when they are campaigning. They send it to our campaign for liberty, our campaign for the Constitution." Paul's campaign collected more donations from active duty military than all of the other Republican candidates combined through the third quarter of 2011.

Like Santorum, Paul benefitted from a surge in the polls in Iowa in December. Paul stands at second in the polls in New Hampshire, a state that may be better suited toward a Ron Paul insurgency. New Hampshire is less dominated by social conservatives and more heavily dominated by fiscal conservatives and social libertarians. And unlike Santorum, Paul has proven to be a prodigious fundraiser on the campaign trail.

Placing fourth was former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (13 percent), followed by Texas Governor Rick Perry (10 percent), Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann (5 percent), and former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman at less than one percent (who ignored Iowa and has focused upon New Hampshire).

Photo of Mitt Romney: AP Images

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