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January 4th, 2012
 

Romney Wins in a Squeaker, Edges Santorum by 8 Votes

romney at nationwide (187)

If you ever needed definitive proof that every vote counts, the 2012 Iowa Caucus provided it. By the narrowest of margins, Mitt Romney is the winner, edging Rick Santorum by eight votes. The final tally was 30,015 for Romney, 30,007 for Santorum. 122,255 Iowans cast their vote on Tuesday.

Mitt Romney’s huge investment in Iowa finally paid off. It came four years later than he expected, but Mitt Romney emerged victorious in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. In the age of the Tea Party, the establishment candidate won. In a state known for its strong evangelical base, a Mormon finished ahead of the pack. Barely.

The victory guarantees that Romney has the inside track to the GOP nomination. However, he received his closest competition from the most unlikely of competitors. Rick Santorum’s remarkable final week surge almost snatched the victory away from Romney. By the narrowest of margins, Romney is finally the Hawkeye State’s favorite.

The former Massachusetts governor was very careful with his Iowa strategy this cycle. He invested millions in the state four years ago and basically tried to buy an Iowa victory. That backfired when Mike Huckabee handily defeated Romney. Hoping to avoid getting burned again, Romney campaigned sparsely in the state.

It was a smart game of lowered expectations. If Romney won Iowa, he would receive a huge boost toward the nomination. If he finished a strong second, the campaign could claim they did not focus on Iowa and concentrated more on New Hampshire.

Despite infrequent appearances in the state, Romney’s Iowa staff outworked many of the other campaigns on the ground. Field coordinators were constantly appearing at GOP events that other campaigns ignored. Wearing Romney lapel stickers, clipboard in hand and promoting their candidate to every attendee, the former Massachusetts governor assembled some terrific workers in Iowa. That allowed him to focus on other early primary states.

A strong ground game combined with millions of dollars to wage an air war on TV and radio are exactly how presidential campaigns are won. Romney and his supporters successfully dismantled Newt Gingrich’s huge surge in November. The millions of dollars in attack ads proved very effective and sent the former House Speaker tumbling into fourth place.

As other candidates rose and fell in the polls, Romney’s numbers Iowa remained constant. He was able to maintain the same base of Iowa voters that propelled him to a second place finish four years ago. As conservatives desperately searched for the “anti-Romney” candidate, none of other GOP contenders were strong enough to maintain their momentum.

Jobs and the economy remain the number one issue for most voters and many Iowa Republicans feel Romney’s business background make him the most qualified person to cure the nation’s ills. The former Massachusetts governor campaigned as a social conservative four years ago. When some of his past stances received more scrutiny, many Iowans turned against Romney and did not find him authentic.

This time, Romney avoided talking about abortion and gay marriage. His focus was squarely on the economy and President Obama’s failed policies. The strategy paid off.

Many Iowans took umbrage with Romney for mostly ignoring Iowa, but it worked. He is a heavy favorite to win the New Hampshire primary and is significantly better positioned for a battle in the early states than Rick Santorum. Romney appears well on his well to capturing the GOP nomination.

Photo by Dave Davidson, Prezography.com


About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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