It was an incredible night. Iowans once again did their duty in vetting the presidential candidates and winnowing the GOP field. It was an exciting and fascinating evening. We truly are blessed in this state to have the first-in-the-nation status.
Obviously, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are the big winners Tuesday night. However, there are plenty of other people who can claim victories as well as those who should wallow in the agony of defeat.
Now that I’ve had a day to digest the results and all the happenings of the campaign, here are the winners and losers from the 2012 Iowa Caucus:
Mitt Romney: He did just enough to squeak by with a victory, but a win is a win. Romney solidified his status as the GOP frontrunner.
Rick Santorum: He kept saying that his boom was coming. There were plenty of doubters, including myself. Santorum stuck to his strategy and it paid off in the end. Losing by eight votes is still a victory for the former Pennslvania senator.
Matt Schultz: Iowa’s Secretary of State was the only statewide or federally elected official to endorse a candidate. He chose Rick Santorum, someone who was polling in the low single digits at the time. Today, Schultz looks like a genius.
The 99 County Tour, Branstad/Grassley-Style: There are reasons Terry Branstad and Chuck Grassley have never lost elections. They both make it a point to visit all 99 counties every year, delivering their message face-to-face and spending time listening to their constituents. They tell all the candidates to do the same. Rick Santorum proved again the method works.
Mitt Romney’s Iowa staff: Bloated and overpaid four years ago, Romney had only five Iowa staffers this time. They outworked the rest of the field, showing up at GOP and conservative events the other campaigns skipped, constantly pushing their candidate. This is how a field staff is supposed to operate.
Johnston 3 Precinct & Black Hawk County: Johnston 3, the largest precinct in the state in terms of registered Republicans, was treated to an all-star lineup of speakers on caucus night. Rick Santorum, Rand Paul, J.C. Watts, Anita Perry and Josh Romney addressed the 700+ caucus goers. Black Hawk County, which had all their precincts in one location, also had an impressive list of speakers, including Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich and Bob Vander Plaats.
Pizza Ranch: The popular chain hosted several dozen campaign events for the presidential candidates. Their fried chicken and mashed potatoes are always winners.
The Iowa Caucus process: It’s open, fair and despite a result that would call for an immediate recount anywhere else, no one is asking for one here. That’s a testament to how well the system works.
Iowa Republicans: We capably vetted all the candidates, separated the contenders from the pretenders, and turned out in record numbers to cast our votes. Other than a few precincts, everything went off without a hitch. Give yourselves a pat on the back for a job well done.
Michele Bachmann: An amazing fall for the former Iowa frontrunner, self-proclaimed Iowan and Ames Straw Poll winner. She placed last out of all the candidates who competed in Iowa. Bachmann only managed a fifth place finish in Black Hawk County, where she was born. Bad night.
Kent Sorenson: After running Bachmann’s campaign into the ground, he deserted her in the final week to join Ron Paul, because he wanted to be with a winner. In the process, Sorenson basically called Bachmann a liar. He then proceeded to launch vicious attacks against Rick Santorum with mass emails and robo-calls. What did he get for his efforts? A third place finish.
In fact, polls show Ron Paul’s support going down after Sorenson endorsed him. Making matters worse, Santorum beat Paul throughout Sorenson’s senate district. Many of Sorenson’s constituents and previous supporters are disgusted with his actions. He might be the biggest loser in this entire process.
Rick Perry: He ran an inept campaign, failed to string two coherent sentences together without reading them off a sheet of paper, and then slammed Iowa after a fifth place finish. Apparently, there weren’t enough “real Republicans” in Iowa to suit Perry. Perry went from the penthouse to the outhouse in record time. He deserved it. Hey Rick, “real Republicans” never would have supported Al Gore.
The Ron Paul Campaign: Despite a massive, four year organizational effort, Paul finished a disappointing third place at the caucus. Two days earlier, he told CNN he thought he would take first or second. The Paul campaign played the dirtiest, with dozens of robo-calls and emails in the final days attacking Rick Santorum. Their surrogates, including Rand Paul, publicly savaged Santorum. The vitriol backfired. Ron Paul’s best chance at legitimacy is gone.
Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government: The anonymous cowardly group, which many suspect is tied to Ron Paul supporters, spent several weeks attacking Newt Gingrich with fliers and web videos. They helped bring down Newt’s poll numbers. In the final days, the group went after Rick Santorum, even giving out his personal cell phone number on two different robo-calls and encouraging Iowans to call him. That ploy did not work.
The 99 County Tour, Bachmann-style: Instead of doing a legitimate tour, Bachmann staged a last minute photo-op, filled with brief stops and a frantic schedule that was impossible to maintain. When you do a campaign event in Iowa, people want to hear where you stand on the issues and have the opportunity to ask you questions. At several stops, Bachmann dropped in for just a few minutes, posed for some pictures and quickly departed. Quality always trumps quantity.
The Ames Straw Poll: It was a great event and lots of fun, but Bachmann’s failures on Tuesday prove the Straw Poll results are no longer relevant. Not only did Bachmann fall from first to worst, the event eliminated former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who might have been viable had he not invested everything into the GOP fundraiser.
The Tea Party: There were two self-proclaimed Tea Party candidates competing in Iowa, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann. They finished fifth and sixth. Some Tea Party “leaders” supported Newt Gingrich. He finished fourth. The Tea Party, at least in Iowa, does possess the strength it thinks it does. And no, Ron Paul is not a Tea Party candidate, despite his campaign’s claims to the contrary.
People Who Voted for Sarah Palin or Herman Cain: Despite radio and TV ads from the Sarah Palin “Earthquake” group, Palin received 117 votes, at the most. We’ll never know, because votes for her were lumped into the “Other” category. Herman Cain received 54 votes. Way to waste your vote, guys. Instead of backing another conservative in the race, you basically handed Mitt Romney the Iowa Caucus victory.
Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com
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