Lessons from Iowa

It’s hard to say what to take from last night’s Iowa caucus, except that because Senator Santorum’s little surge translated into real votes, we can conclude that each of the little boomlets that defined the fall campaign were real, and not creations of the media or polling companies. The Republican electorate is actually as undecided as they have seemed, and if they’re willing to cast a ballot for the unelectable, disgraceful Santorum over clean-cut Romney, they’re in no hurry to unite behind their “inevitable” candidate. In fact, I’m willing to see Romney’s eight-vote victory as a loss — as is he, considering he cut the line “Thank you, Iowa!” from his “victory” speech — and a potential gain for his ultimate Democratic opponent.



  1. “Ultimate Democratic opponent”? That’s a peculiar phrase. Is there really any indication that Obama won’t stand for reelection or won’t be the Democratic nominee in every state? Your wording suggests there is, and I would be interested in knowing what it is.

  2. It seems to me Iowa result very neatly illustrates the current situation of the GOP overall: fundamentally divided between the moderate, economic issues-oriented faction (in the old days, we’d call them Wall Street Republicans) in the form of Mitt Romney, the social conservatives in the form of Rick Santorum, and the ultra-libertarians in the form of Ron Paul.

    I think the result was pretty much as expected, so it’s hard to call it a win or loss for any of the top three – but it’s definitely a problem for the party as a whole that the three factions are as evenly matched as they are. Unseating an incumbent president is a huge challenge, so they should ideally have relatively clear front runner by now.

    1. Asides from a minor quibble about how to label Ron Paul’s base I think you’re right.

      It makes me wonder how the Democrats have avoided the same thing happening to them. As an outsider I don’t see the same factionalism of incompatible ideologies in them as in the Republicans.

  3. That’s a fair point. Obama and Hillary were functionally from the same wings of the party; their only divide was over the Iraq War.

    1. Yeah, the Republican nomination process was like an argument over whether to drink Coke, Dr. Pepper, or Root Beer. The Democratic nomination process was like an argument over whether to drink Sprite, 7-Up, or Sierra Mist.

  4. I’m not at all familiar with the internal dynamics of the Democratic party, but I have a vague impression that its factions tend to be more numerous, smaller, and perhaps also somewhat ‘fuzzier’ than is the case in the GOP. So there’s less of a chance of, say, the progressive faction running a viable candidate of their own, and everyone just sort of gravitate to the eventual mainstream candidate by default. Don’t know.

    I think the Clinton administration played a large role in establishing the centrist faction (if you can call it that) as dominant. The 1992 primaries were probably the last ones to see a serious divide between a populist (Brown) and a centrist (Clinton) candidate.

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