The Iowa caucus is political candy that lasts the whole year. Its history is more adapt at spotting losers than winners. It seems that three candidates, Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum (the latest Tea Party “rabbit” in Iowa) will divide roughly 70 percent of the vote. I could be wrong, but I’m taking Romney with a narrow win over Paul with Santorum not too far behind.
I go with Romney because Iowa voters, according to the latest Des Moines Register poll, almost 50 percent of Iowa Republicans pick him as the strongest GOP contender against President Barack Obama; no other candidate is at 15 percent. Also, Romney, in a new Suffolk poll in New Hampshire, is leading the GOP pack by 25 points. Just like voters can be swayed by a barrage of negative ads (just ask Newt Gingrich), it’s fun to be associated with a winner.
The candidate most likely to hang around competing against Romney until the convention is Paul. He has a devoted core constituency in the primaries that likely approaches 20 percent. He’ll increase that total when other candidates start to drop out but it’s hard to see him gaining more of say, Bachmann’s voters, or Perry’s, or Gingrich’s, or Huntsman’s, than Romney will garner.
As for Santorum, his popularity, unlike Perry, Cain or Gingrich, has not shown up in national polls, and I don’t think he has the money or organization to go much further than New Hampshire. If he lasts a while, he could be a potential vice president pick because he’s from Pennsylvania, a tough state for the GOP, and he’ll get values-based conservative Republicans enthusiastic.
As for the three candidates who will split 30 percent in Iowa (Jon Huntsman, betting on New Hampshire, is not competing in the caucus), I’ll go with Newt Gingrich with 12 to 13 percent, Rick Perry with 8 to 10 percent and 6 to 8 for Michele Bachmann. Newt will hang around past New Hampshire, maybe, but Perry should be history after the Granite State votes. Bachmann may end her campaign before the week is over.
I could be wrong, but that’s how I see it.