The Iowa Caucus voters have flirted, and even dated, many GOP presidential candidates over the past few months. However, Iowa Republicans now seem to be picking Mitt Romney for marriage. The question now is whether they are “settling” or really enthused about the prospect of making Mitt Romney the Republican Party’s nominee for president.
Over the last few days four new polls of the Iowa Caucuses have been released. Both CNN/Time and Rasmussen Reports now has Romney in the lead with 25% of the vote. Both polls have Ron Paul polling second in the low 20’s. One survey, from Public Policy Polling, has Paul in the lead with 24% of the vote and Romney second with 20%. Insider Advantage has a tied race with Romney, Paul, and Gingrich all polling at 17%. A Real Clear Politics average of all four polls puts Romney in the lead by one point with 21.8% of the vote.
These polls have to be seen as good news for Romney campaign. Throughout much of 2011 Romney has struggled to poll above 20% in Iowa. Romney has devoted much more time and financial resources to New Hampshire, where he leads by a large margin over all other candidates. Many actually expected Romney to lose Iowa. The candidate himself has tried to lower expectations so that a third or fourth place finish would not be seen as a loss. Now, Romney is actually positioned to win the contest. If Romney wins both Iowa and New Hampshire it will give him tremendous momentum, and a ton of free press heading into the other states. Best of all for Romney, a win in Iowa and New Hampshire may eliminate many of his competitors who need an early win to maintain legitimacy.
Still, some might question whether Romney’s surge is really result of the “anti-Romneys” failures as opposed to any Romney successes. Five different candidates have had the lead in Iowa over the last six months, but all have found a way to give up their lead, usually within a matter of weeks.
In early July Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R-Minn) led the race by a wide margin, but lost over half her support when a number of her stranger viewpoints emerged. At one point Bachmann claimed that the HPV vaccine may be causing mental retardation in young children.
Rick Perry was the darling of Iowa Republicans in August, but his dreadful debate performances convinced them that he was not a realistic option.
Herman Cain then took the lead throughout much of October and even November, but then a report emerged showing two women had made sexual harassment claims against Cain in the past. Cain held on to his support for a while, but more women came forward to allege harassment or affairs. Cain’s inconsistent, and at times nasty responses turned off voters. Cain ended up dropping out of the race altogether.
From mid-November to December Newt Gingrich emerged as the favorite anti-Romney and had a double-digit lead in all the major polls. Then conservatives found out that Gingrich was not always so conservative, and that his personal life did not match up well with his political ideals. Newt too did fail.
Finally, there was Ron Paul, who took the lead in mid-December. The Republican establishment reacted negatively to this news, with many questioning whether Paul’s “extreme” viewpoints would make him electable in a general election. Paul also has struggled to answer questions about a number of racist, homophobic, and conspiracy theory-related quotes which appeared in the “Ron Paul Newsletter” in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Paul is now losing ground at the worst time, and probably needs an Iowa win more than any other candidate.
So after having their “fling” with all these candidates, Iowa voters are now finally going back to Romney. Still, one must question the strength of the Romney candidacy if it took this long to convince Iowa Republicans that he is their man. Romney may win Iowa, but only after Iowa Republicans found themselves dissatisfied when trying out all the anti-Romneys.