The Republican Caucuses were held last night in Iowa, and Mitt Romney eked out a victory over a surging Rick Santorum by the slightest of margins (8 total votes statewide). Now that is close. The fallout has been quick, with Governor Rick Perry “reassessing” his campaign, and Michelle Bachmann having a presser at 11:00 am this morning to likely do the same thing. Newt Gingrich gave a post-caucus speech in which he gave every indication that he is looking to torch Mitt Romney, and team up with Rick Santorum to do so if possible. Gingrich is making it clear that as far as Mitt Romney goes it is scorched earth from this day forward. He opened the festivities with a full page ad in the Manchester Union Leader attacking Romney on a score of issues (Reagan Conservative vs Massachusetts Moderate). If he had any real money Romney might have to worry. But I think that both Gingrich and now Santorum will be on the receiving end of more negative hits from the Mittster, who is not about to roll over because Gingrich is having a temper tantrum.
A new CNN NH survey showed why Speaker Gingrich is upset. Romney continues to lead there by a wide margin, polling at 47%, with Dr. Ron Paul second at 17%, and Jon Huntsman at 13%, Santorum at 10% (a 5% move) and Speaker Gingrich at 9% (a 3% decline). It is one thing to be down in the polls, but Gingrich has to be mortified that he actually is polling below Jon Huntsman, which is a huge indignity. New Hampshire polling, in my view, will show further gains for Santorum, but those gains will come at the expense of Huntsman and Gingrich, and maybe a little bit of shaving of the Romney number as well. I am more interested in the latest South Carolina numbers with the new field configuration, and I just can’t wait for the Republican debates coming soon. For now Romney achieved multiple goals in Iowa:
1) He stole a victory, even though he slightly mishandled the expectations game. When Romney saw opportunity he swept into Iowa, looking to deliver a knockout blow. He did not win a landslide, but he did achieve a victory that a few short weeks ago seemed improbable. Kudos to the Romney campaign team. Great execution.
2) His only real opponent, Newt Gingrich, is severely wounded. Rick Santorum has risen, but will not have the horsepower organizationally or financially to compete against Romney across the nation. He has been camped out in Iowa for the past year, and does not really have a national organization. Romney is picking them off one by one, in a most ruthless fashion. Santorum will now experience what Gingrich has been tasting, as the big guns of “Restore Our Future” set sights on him.
The Romney march continues.