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Friday, January 4, 2008
posted by Justin Hart | 10:18 AM | permalink

The first thing that political consultants look at when evaluating a local election is turnout. The question for the candidate is: does big turnout help or hurt you? In this case, big turnout hurt Romney, big.

There's no getting around the fact that second place in Iowa is not where Mitt wanted to be. Word on the ground is that we got out almost everyone we expected to get out to vote. But there were nearly 30,000 more people voting the GOP caucus compared to the caucuses in 2000. Those votes went overwhelmingly to Huckabee.

Patrick Ruffini noted last week that Romney's ground game may not help his with the odd beast known as the Iowa caucus, and it didn't. In a regular primary election (like New Hampshire) poll watchers can glance over the voter lists for each precinct and find our who hasn't voted yet. They phone those names back to HQ and make a call to remind them. No such luck with a 6:00PM caucuses. In other words, in a simple ordinary primary election there's room to "stoke the fire" in real-time. Not so in Iowa.

Bottom line: Mitt did a great job getting out the vote, Huckabee did better. Huck did better not because of his organization but because he successfully sold his populist brand of conservatism to Evangelical Christians.

Two other factors are complicit in the Romney loss: the big field and the timing. Thompson, McCain and Paul pulled in double digit percentages in the results. That certainly didn't help. And the December Huckabee surge was bad, Bad, BAD for Romney. All year, the Romney campaign had successfully batted down McCain, Rudy, Brownback and Thompson in the early states. No such luck with Huckabee with the twelve days of Christmas bearing down. Of course, the 5 days to New Hampshire doesn't help any.

The Good News

Still, Romney got two of the three things he wanted last night:

  1. Oh well, we lost. Woulda loved that win. Bugger.
  2. McCain came in fourth with Thompson holding his own. McCain can't run the tables in New Hampshire bragging of a 4th place finish.
  3. Obama won. Which means fewer independent vote will cross over to vote for McCain in New Hampshire.

As a senior Romney official told me last night: "no where on God's green earth is there another place where 60% of the vote is made up of Evangelical Christians. Not even in South Carolina." Yes, Huckabee will get a bump but can he pull out a double-pump boost in New Hampshire? I'm not convinced.

Iowa hurts, but my money is still on Romney.

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Justin, good analysis. It's gonna be a great competition!

(Still) Your Friends,

Jack and Charmaine

"successfully sold his populist brand"

GAG me. Seriously, populist politics nauseate me.

Remember, this is the same state that elected Tom Harkin, Mr. Liberal Populist, over and over and over and over again. Pandering with populism might sell in Iowa, but it doesn't where it counts. I'm not convinced it sells in NH, either--and history and the current polls certainly seem to confirm that. Thank God, because I can't stand that stuff--and I'm exactly in a demographic they'd expect to sell it to! Divorced non-working mom on VA disability? Oh, how someone like John Edwards or Mike Huckabee would salivate for my demographic! Sorry, I'm not buyin' it...I don't want to be empowered or identified as a "little guy," I want to have a real future for my daughter and me.

And I see the Yoests are gracious, as usual. :)

::waves to Jack and Charmaine::

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