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May 9th, 2011

Running Scared or Running Out The Clock?

By Craig Robinson

Mitt Romney is taking an unconventional path to the Republican presidential nomination.  Not only is he blowing off Iowa Republicans, but according to an article by Ben Smith in Politico, he has also adopted the same strategy in South Carolina.

Good luck with that.

There is nothing that says that a candidate must follow a certain path to win the nomination, but more times than not, the race for the nomination has been decided before Super Tuesday.  The nominee has always been selected from those who participate in early contests like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina, not Louisiana, Alaska, Michigan, or even Nevada.

Smith’s article once again suggests that Romney’s troubles in conservative states like Iowa and South Carolina is a product of his Mormon faith.  Romney and his campaign have shown a knack for using the religious bigotry card in an effort to either explain why he lost in 2008, or why he’s not competing in certain places in 2012.

The mainstream news media has been quick to help facilitate the Romney myth that he can’t run in conservative states because of religious bigotry.   If there were an anti-Mormon sentiment in Iowa, Sen. Orrin Hatch, who ran for President in 2000, would have had to deal wit it as well.  Hatch’s faith really wasn’t much of an issue in Iowa during his 2000 presidential campaign.

Many Iowans are offended by the insinuation that they care more about someone’s religious beliefs than the issues a candidates discusses while on the campaign trail.  Chuck Lauder, a former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Iowa, told TheIowaRepublican.com, “To flee because of your own religion is not only misguided, but it demonstrates a total lack of the leadership necessary to win the next election.”

“Only the media has the intellectual laziness to dwell on Romney’s Mormonism.  If Romney had shown up at the South Carolina debate, would Brett Baier have asked the Mormon question?  Maybe.  But certainly none of the other candidates would have.  The entire fiction is a twin of the same loser argument that to be opposed to Obamacare means you’re a racist,” Laudner added.

If Iowa is so intolerant towards Mormons, then how does one explain Matt Schultz’ 2010 victories?  Schultz, a practicing Mormon, not only defeated the sitting Secretary of State last November, but he also won a contentious primary against a well-known former legislator and U.S. Senate candidate who had the endorsement of a number of establishment Republicans.

It’s also interesting to note that Schultz was supported by two of Romney’s biggest critics, WHO Radio personalities Jan Mickelson and Steve Deace.  The two radio hosts made life difficult for Romney in Iowa during the last caucus cycle. Obviously Schultz’ faith wasn’t an issue for them in the Secretary of State’s race.  Romney’s harshest critic, Steve Deace, has also left WHO Radio to pursue other endeavors, so it’s not like he would have to endure the same criticisms on the state’s largest radio station every afternoon.

If anything, the political tealeaves suggest that Iowa could be more hospitable to a Mormon candidate this time around.  Yet, Romney has not stepped foot in the state for the last 195 days.   Could it be that the reason why Romney is so hesitant to campaign in conservative states like Iowa and South Carolina is because it’s his record that he’s scared to defend, not his faith?

The obstacle that Romney must overcome if he is going to be successful in his second attempt for the Republican nomination is trust, not his Mormon faith.   The main trust issue he must overcome is his lone legislative accomplishment as Governor of Massachusetts – Romney Care.  While everyone knows his own version of government-funded healthcare will haunt him throughout the campaign, the series of flip-flops that were exposed in the last campaign will also continue to undermine his candidacy.

Last weekend in New Hampshire, Romney tried to laugh his way through a question on healthcare.  His answer bombed, and so will his campaign unless he can get that issue behind him.  That may be a difficult task, but the late start of the Republican presidential campaign aids him more than anyone else.  Romney’s absence in Iowa and South Carolina not only shows that he’s not taking the those states seriously, but that strategy has also helped prevent the 2012 race from starting in earnest.

Romney’s only play to win the nomination may be to hope that the field of candidates remains weak with no clear front-runner.  If the early debates and the Iowa Straw Poll that is scheduled for August 13th are viewed as second tier contests, then he can basically run a national TV and radio campaign beginning in the fall.

If that is indeed Romney’s strategy, then the potential candidates that did not participate in the South Carolina Fox News debate, namely Newt Gingrich, Michele Bachmann, and Mike Huckabee, are actually helping Romney by prolonging the official start to the 2012 presidential campaign.  Had those three candidates participated, no one would have been able to say that the debate was a second tier event.

Even though Romney has shied away from Iowa and South Carolina for more than six months now, he is likely to emerge with a paid media campaign by the fall.  Unless things change in a hurry and these potential candidates throw their hats into the ring, Romney will, in essence, be given a pass for not participating in early events like debates and the Iowa Straw Poll.

It’s a risky strategy, but right now, the other GOP big-name contenders who want the nomination themselves are helping Mitt Romney find a road to the nomination by running out the clock andskipping the early activity in states like Iowa.

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of TheIowaRepublican.com, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and TheIowaRepublican.com as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, TheIowaRepublcian.com. Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.




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