Well, I am not so bold as to predict an order of finish, but I will tell you the following:
- Mitt Romney’s performance will far exceed any reasonable expectations.
- Rick Santorum will win the largest portion of the Evangelical vote.
- Ron Paul will bring out the nutter elite and show quite well.
- Rick Perry will do well enough to hang on a bit longer.
- Michelle Bachmann will withdraw soon thereafter. No hope.
- Everyone else will underperform and Gingrich will finally have a reason to cry.
Now, you may or may not find that those are the story lines the press will cover. Ezra Klein:
Probably not. For the record, this isn’t really Iowa’s fault. They’re insistent on going first, but their caucus only matters so much because we in the media nationalize it — and the importance of its results — so aggressively. Which is why it’s worth remembering Jon Bernstein’s advice on how to read the media coverage out of Iowa.
“Remember that what matters out of Iowa is the spin,” he writes. “Remember that the spin will be influenced by two main things: press biases, and party actors.”
It is absolutely the spin that matters, but Bernstein is wrong on the two things that influence it. In the new media age, spin is a far more subtle instrument, not always for the best. The press has been working overtime to try and recalibrate expectations for Iowa. Romney holds a slim, and statistically insignificant, lead there at the moment – something no one, myself included, really thought possible. The advent of that polling data has destroyed the prevailing expected narrative (Romney cannot get the Evangelical vote and therefore cannot win Iowa) and that is a problem for the MSM.
It’s worse than that. Should my prediction hold, and Santorum garner the largest portion of the Evangelical vote, it must be remembered that he is Catholic. Then not only is the expected Romney narrative shattered, but so too the narrative that says Evangelicals are closed-minded bigots. Catholics are getting boosts in the most unexpected of places.
This matters to the press more than just who the Republican nominee ends up being, and it is looking more and more like Romney. Remember how invested the MSM are in Obama. The One drew a heavy Evangelical vote last time, and they were counting on Evangelical distaste for the conventional wisdom nominee, Romney, to help their Chosen One this time. Oops! (While we’re here, consider the source on this carefully, but who knew “conventional wisdom” was such a force for evil?) WaPo has proclaimed “The Persistence of Anti-Mormon Sentiment” one of the top ten religion stories to watch in 2012. That may be true, but not in the way they think. Mona Charen:
Polygamy having long since been discarded, anti-Mormon bias today, ironically, often focuses on the LDS Church’s opposition to same sex marriage. During the contest over California’s Proposition 8, which limited marriage to the bond between men and women, opponents sought to intimidate Mormons who contributed financially or otherwise to the initiative. While there has been speculation that Mitt Romney’s faith might suppress support among Republicans, a recent Gallup survey found that Democrats (27 percent) were more likely than Republicans (18 percent) to say they would not vote for a Mormon candidate for president.
Mormons are obviously the wrong kind of minority. Oh, they’ve been persecuted. But through a strong work ethic, self-discipline, traditional morality (Yes, there’s an irony there, but get over it.) and group cohesion, they have triumphed for themselves and for the country. The first Mormon president would be a milestone. But don’t hold your breath for the applause.
Yep, anti-Mormon sentiment will be a story alright, but it’ll be anti-Mormon sentiment from the left, not the right. Romney himself is getting a bit bolder in mentioning his faith.
But know this – coming out of Iowa, the MSM is going to report a Romney underperformance (if he does not win, that’s easy and if he does it will not be by enough) and they will blame it on a Rick Santorum overperformance, rooted in religious bias. They are going to hold their preferred narrative as tightly as they can.
And now, here is my hope for what will come out of Iowa: smarter, politically involved Evangelicals. Basically, they have fallen apart as a political force in the state, and that is why they seem unable to have a significant influence on the outcome this time. Not only are they in the ghetto I have so often discussed here, but they are infighting in that ghetto. This is hardly the first time. They seem to have a pattern of uniting behind an “authentic Christian” of some sort (Pat Robertson some years ago and Mike Huckabee last time) and then tripping all over themselves trying to parlay that political force in the next cycle and outside of Iowa. Evangelicals should matter in this nation politically, but we have got to get our act together to do that.
John Mark here:
Here is my prediction for Iowa:
Romney will win, but Santorum will be the story. (See Pat Robertson in Iowa with his second place finish.) This is fine for Romney, because Santorum has zero national organization. Ron Paul will underperform.
Here is my shot at the final numbers:
Bachmann is done and will finally know it. She will follow Pawlenty. Perry will hang on to get to South Carolina, but if he implodes (as I suspect) and does not get to 10%, then he will lack the money to really compete. Gingrich will go back to being a guy trying to increase his speaking fees. He is not, and has never been, a serious candidate.
Romney is the only candidate who can win the GOP nomination. Every other candidate needs him to lose in order to win. In short, like mediocre NFL teams looking for a wildcard, the rest need a loss and not just a few wins to get the nod.
Romney does not need Iowa, but if he gets it, then it will be good. Santorum close will still be the story, because Romney bores the media. He is too inevitable. However, if Iowa gets Romney over 30%, that will be very big news. The dump-on-Romney line of late has been that he is Mr. Steady in the polls. To out do the polls would kill that story. . . .
Lowell adds . . .
I think my two co-bloggers’ outcome predictions are spot-on, especially regarding Santorum. If Santorum does become “the story,” it will be fascinating to see how the news media spin the Catholic candidate pulling so much Evangelical support. It would be reasonable to explain his success based on his social conservatism. It is more interesting to the newsies, however, to explain the Santorum surge by Evangelical antipathy to Mormonism. Howard Fineman’s Huffington Post piece exemplifies the catnip-like appeal of the issue to the MSM. (Fineman thinks that Mike Huckabee “would have to be considered a leading contender for the veep slot should Romney win the Republican nomination.” Something about pigs flying comes to mind as I consider that notion….)
I also wonder if Nancy French’s “A Letter to Iowa Evangelicals” will get much notice. I’m sure it is being e-mailed and Twittered furiously throughout Iowa Republican circles even now. I can’t do justice to Nancy’s piece with excerpts; you have to read the whole thing.
Time to grab some popcorn and get ready for the show.