We asked PostOpinions columnists, bloggers and editors who would win Tuesday night’s Iowa caucuses and why. Read all the PostOpinions predictions, as well as analysis of Iowa from Richard Cohen, Michael Gerson, Kathleen Parker, Eugene Robinson, and Jennifer Rubin.
There is a good argument for a Romney victory. The latest Real Clear Politics average shows Romney in first with 22.8 percent, Paul just behind with 21.5, Santorum with 16.3, Gingrich with 13.7, Perry with 11.5, Bachman with 6.8. This is exactly where Romney wants his conservative opposition — divided.
But Paul has one factor working in his favor that Romney lacks — enthusiasm. Paul supporters are nothing short of rapid. For weeks, young Paul backers have descending on the state from across the country to knock on doors and bring out the vote — and have been finding a receptive audience among Iowa Republicans. Indeed, Paul’s support may well be deeper than the polls indicate. Lot of folks may not tell pollsters they support Paul, but vote for him when the moment comes. I hope that I am wrong, but I fear that Ron Paul may win Iowa.
That might suit Mitt Romney just fine. Victory in Iowa would not set Paul on a path to the GOP nomination, but it would be a blow to Romney’s other conservative challengers. While Romney would prefer to win in Iowa, a strong second place finish there, followed by a victory in New Hampshire, would give Romney the momentum he needs going into South Carolina.
What should have Romney most worried is the late surge by Rick Santorum, who was polling at 21 percent in the last two days of the Des Moines Register poll. If evangelicals decide to unify around him, it is entirely plausible that Santorum and Paul could take some combination of first and second place, leaving Romney in third. The only way Romney comes out of Iowa weakened is if he loses to both Paul and Santorum — which is a distinct possibility.