Last night, around 10 p.m., when MSNBC said Iowa was too close to call, I decided to hit the hay. Might as well get some sleep and greet the results in the morning with all the enthusiasm of a kid on Christmas Day. What I didn’t expect was an eight-vote margin of victory for the “winner.”
Good for Mitt Romney that he’s on the winning side of the narrowest caucus victory ever. So far, he’s run a superb campaign. It was nimble enough to refocus on Iowa when it sensed an opening. It was disciplined enough to maintain its message that Romney was the best candidate to take on President Obama. It was measured enough to answer critics and rivals reveling in reminding voters about his ideological promiscuity. And it was unafraid to let others do the dirty work of cutting his rival of the moment down to size with an onslaught of negative ads. Despite all that, Romney only won by eight votes.
To paraphrase Whoopi Goldberg’s memorable line from “Ghost,” “Mitt, you in danger, girl.”
Folks don’t like Romney. Think about it. The former Massachusetts governor lost Iowa four years ago with nearly the same amount of votes he “won” with last night. According to exit polls, Iowans who made getting rid of Obama their priority sided with Romney (48 percent). But that wasn’t nearly as important as the issue of abortion. The candidate for this group was Rick Santorum. The man who won by losing by eight votes to Romney snagged 58 percent of that vote. In short, social conservatives just don’t think Romney is one of them. And Newt Gingrich is going to spend every waking moment between now and next Tuesday’s vote in New Hampshire reminding them of that.
The former House speaker wasted no time last night by using his speech to (praise Santorum and) take down Romney.
We'll have — one other great debate and that is whether this party wants a Reagan conservative who helped change Washington in the 1980s with Ronald Reagan and helped change Washington in the 1990s as Speaker of the House, or we want a Massachusetts moderate who, in fact, will be pretty good at managing the decay but has given no evidence in his years in Massachusetts of any act to change the culture or change the political structure or change the government.
Let me be clear, because I think it’s important, given all the things that were done in this state over the last few weeks. We are not going to go out and run nasty ads. We’re not going to run 30-second gotchas. But I do reserve the right to tell the truth, and if the truth seems negative, that may be more a comment on [Romney’s] record than it is on politics. So this is going to be a debate that begins tomorrow morning in New Hampshire and and will go on for a few months, and I’m convinced that the Republican Party will pick an era of Reagan and somebody with a track record of changing Washington.
Gingrich was back at it this morning on MSNBC’s “Daily Rundown.” For good measure, Jon Huntsman was on “Morning Joe,” taking a hammer to Romney. That’s predictable and understandable since the former Utah governor and ambassador to China has put all of his eggs in the Granite State’s basket.
More proof that folks don’t like Romney came in a blistering, 4:46 a.m. blog post from Erick Erickson of RedState.
The Republican field was unable to reboot [in 2008] because we had no logical successor coming out of the White House to either win or lose. We went back to McCain and have had to work our way back through unresolved issues from 2000. And now, when the field should be rebooted, we’re having to deal with Mitt Romney who should have been displaced by an heir in 2008 and instead, because the 2008 season did not reboot the crop of candidates, is now the guy three quarters of the GOP does not want who is about to be the nominee.
David Brody of CBN News reminded this morning that the influential Manchester, N.H., newspaper the Union Leader, which endorsed Gingrich in November, “will be no help for Romney.” He added, “The incoming fire Romney will be receiving in the next week will be the worst he has received in the campaign so far.”
That fire won’t be coming just from the right. Bill Burton of the Obama-boosting Priorities USA Action issued a blog post even earlier than Erickson’s that featured Romney’s greatest pandering on immigration and his support for Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan that would block-grant Medicare. Remember, Romney’s not even the nominee — yet.
A “victory” in Iowa does not a nominee make. But despite the electoral ennui he induces, Romney is still perfectly poised to leave Tampa in August as the GOP nominee. With the sustained pummeling he’ll take from the right and the left, it’s just a matter of whether he’ll be limping or a political dead man walking.