By Teresa Welsh |
The Iowa caucuses don't deliver nomination victories, but they are historicity significant because they deliver defeats to lesser primary candidates, narrowing the field while creating sharper contrasts among survivors. The caucuses potentially provide a shot in the arm to one or two candidates who might have been neglected before the people spoke. That's a victory to those left standing. Nevertheless, the eventual nominee is the candidate who soars not solely by virtue of an Iowa tailwind, rather by virtue of being prepared for what follows.
I believed prior to the Iowa caucuses, regardless of outcome, that former Gov. Mitt Romney would emerge as the nominee of the Republican Party. Up until a few days ago I did not truly think he had a chance to win Iowa outright, though I thought surely a top-three was important to maintain credibility. I still believe, with Romney's slim victory, for which he deserves credit (a win is a win), and former Sen. Rick Santorum's tremendous triumph over expectations, for which he deserves credit (it is a true victory over several others), that Romney is the future nominee.
There was and remains no other candidate in the race who in my view has the ability to orchestrate back-to-back victories and therefore maintain momentum in the contests ahead to go the distance. While Iowa presented just the first test, none other than Romney can go on to have a truly national campaign, and those who might have had the resources, like Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, are not expected to stay in the race. After a victory in New Hampshire next week, I believe Romney will finish strong in South Carolina, then go on to win the important state of Florida.
While conventional political wisdom has it that there are three tickets out of Iowa--the official winner and two who exceed expectations, all of whom usually, but not always, finish in the top three--this year there appears to have been two. Rick Santorum earned one of them and with it a more prominent place in the race for the first time. Rep. Ron Paul, who finished third after at one point being expected to win, does not have broad enough appeal to win primaries and become the nominee.
But Santorum's ticket is likely on a shorter line than Romney's. Santorum's strong showing might have mattered more if Romney were not so far ahead in New Hampshire and, perhaps, if there were more time between the two contests. With a week to go before the first primary, a superior operation and a fairly unshakeable Romney, I believe in this case Iowa has narrowly but accurately chosen the Republican who will face President Obama in November.
About Michael Marshall Policy Adviser and Communications Director to former Sen. Bob Dole
Sally Kohn Political Commentator