Campaign 2012: Hawkeye view of the Iowa caucus

December 28th, 2011

John Carroll, assistant professor of mass communication and a political analyst, offers his forecast on the Iowa caucus.

January 3rd is Anything Can Happen Day in Iowa. Ask any five of the chin-strokerati to predict the winner of the Iowa caucuses, and you’ll get seven answers. But no clues.

Mitt Romney and Ron Paul seem to be the consensus contenders for the top spot, but it’s the undercard that’s generating real interest – and real consequences.

Traditional wisdom has held that three presidential hopefuls get their ticket punched out of Iowa, but inflation seems to have set in, because some are saying it’ll be four this year.

So far, Rick Santorum is widely considered to be the best candidate for the We’re Number Four! slot. That’s assuming he doesn’t leapfrog Newt Gingrich, who’s embarked on a too-little-too-late tour of 40-something towns in the Hawkeye State.

As for the bottom of the ballot barrel, it’ll be lights out for Michele Bachmann, and light’s on but nobody’s home for Rick Perry. (He has too much money to disappear this early.) Jon Huntsman gets a hall pass until the New Hampshire primary.

Back to the top, Paul has picked up more baggage this week than a Red Cap at Penn Station. Romney, meanwhile, has weathered the Gingrich sturm und drang and profited from the other candidates’ unwillingness – or unfundedness – to attack him. Leaving him to just keep running against Barack Obama.

Bottom line: Although Romney would love to win Iowa, he’ll be happy if it’s Paul, not Gingrich, who beats him. Barring some unforeseen catastrophe (like finishing outside of the top three), he moves on to a likely blowout victory in New Hampshire, after which it’s just a matter of time.

As one Romney strategist told New York magazine, “I don’t see a scenario where we’re not the nominee.”

Know what? Me neither.

Contact Carroll at 617-353-3493;; Twitter: @johncarroll_bu; Blog: Campaign Outsider

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