Reflections on the Iowa Caucus

“Candidly, I believe most corporations actually don’t mind big government” – Rick Santorum

The Iowa Caucus was last night. Right now the vote tally has Mitt Romney just 8 votes ahead of Rick Santorum, each at 25%, and Ron Paul 3rd at 22%. Before I hear all the punditry this morning, I thought I’d give you my thoughts.

Winners and Losers …

I think naturally the winners are the top 3 and the losers are everybody else. Rick Perry and Michelle Bachmann are the big two losers, finishing 5th and 6th. This may well be the end. If Perry can’t get a seat at the evangelical table (see Santorum) then he’s cooked. If Michelle Bachmann can’t win in a small caucus in her birth state then she’s likely cooked too. It’s too early to really count people out, but those two didn’t do well.

Gingrich was fourth and probably has enough money to make a stink in New Hampshire, while not winning. I’m sure he will. He’ll spend what money he has to take on Romney … it’s personal now.

Of the winners I’d rank them this way: Santorum, Romney, Paul. That’s not an order of preference, just an order of who won biggest to smallest. Santorum’s 25% was HUGE. He’s now the latest in a long line of anti-Romneys; we’ll see if he can make it stick. Romney’s 25% was fairly big because he had thought about not even contesting the state, showed up with a few months to go, and still won. Paul’s 22% is less than stellar for him. He really needed a win to change the game. For now the establishment can continue to cast him aside as “crazy uncle Ron”.

Ron Paul’s Evangelical Problem …

The big problem for Paul, and the big gain for Santorum, was evangelicals. I find this befuddling. I am a right-wing, conservative, bible-thumping evangelical. And I find Ron Paul’s positions to be the ones most consistent with a biblical perspective on democracy and the role of government in that context. On the two most important moral issues facing the country (abortion and the fiat currency system) Paul is on the right side. Romney’s on the wrong side on both and Santorum may only be on the right side on one. (Side note: when I say “moral issues” I mean “moral issues from the standpoint of government policy” – not moral issues in general.)

What is Ron Paul’s loss is perhaps my gain though. It’s clear that there is an argument, a debate, a conversation that needs to happen in regards to the role of government and how Christians ought to behave in a democracy. That, of course, is what much of this blog focuses on; so we clearly have found a “needed” message.

Rick Santorum’s Ron Paul Problem …

Santorum doesn’t have an evangelical problem, but he does have a Ron Paul problem. Santorum doesn’t need to sway Ron Paul supporters in order to win the nomination, he can do that by holding the course as the anti-Romney, but he does need Ron Paul supporters to win the election.

Right now Santorum has a problem – he has gone after Paul in a number of debates, particularly on foreign policy. He would have been better served to leave Paul alone and battle someone else. Why? Paul supporters take attacks on Ron Paul (and attacks on their ideals) very personally. Just like ardent pro-lifers will not vote for pro-choice candidates, ardent libertarians will not vote for candidates who have mocked their ideals. Santorum will need to clean this up if he wants to have a chance in November (though he doesn’t need to in order to win the nomination).

How best to do it? Well, I think the first thing he should do is take a Ron Paul position on the federal reserve. Everybody loves to hate Ben Bernanke and paper money. Santorum should go after this. It might just be enough to convince Paul supporters in November that he is a plausible alternative and will give them some of their policy initiatives.

(Note, don’t take this as an indication that this is what Santorum needs to get my vote. I’m talking about the new libertarian strain in general.)

He would also do well to take a “I hate war, but” approach to foreign policy – because he’ll be accused of warmongering very shortly I’m sure.

Mitt Romney’s Rick Santorum Problem …

Mitt Romney doesn’t have a Ron Paul problem – he has no hope of gaining traction with Paul supporters and never will, but he has an even bigger problem than that. Romney has an evangelical problem. Evangelicals don’t like him. He’s pro-choice (how else do you win in Massachusetts?). He won’t be getting these votes, I suspect. I’m not going to give Romney advice on how to win over evangelicals – they may have already made up their mind.

The fact that Romney is holding at 25% or so and the party is continually trying out another strain of anti-Romney has to be troubling for him. He wants to win an election based on “anybody but Obama” but he is fighting a nomination battle based on “anybody but Romney” … this is not an encouraging situation for a politician. Yes, Romney won in Iowa, and yes he’ll probably still win in New Hampshire, but he hasn’t closed the deal and that is telling.

The Final Cut …

The anti-Romneys generally enjoy a couple of month love affair. We’ll see if Santorum gets more or less than that. He is peaking at the right time (when there are actual votes). If he plays this thing conservatively he might have some staying power. But I imagine the same has been said of Bachmann, Perry, Cain, and Gingrich …

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