As I write, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and Rep. Ron Paul are locked in a tight three-way race in the Iowa caucuses.
The short-term takeaway from the cable coverage is that Romney has failed to outperform, and will probably underperform in raw vote total, his 2008 tally in the Hawkeye State.
This is not insignificant: It strongly indicates that most Republican primary voters don’t like Romney—and of those who do vote for him, many hold their noses while doing so.
I still think, as I wrote earlier today, that Romney will be the GOP nominee. But he has yet to show that he can generate the kind of groundswell of enthusiasm that, if you’re a Republican, you’d like to see right now.
And turnout as a whole is less than expected. Real-time projections are for approximately 110,000, less than the 130,000 that had been expected.
I remember well, watching Fox News Channel on Super Tuesday in 2008, Bill Kristol’s gloom at the disparity in turnout between the Democratic and Republican primaries. On that night, at least, roughly twice as many Democrats were turning out to vote—which augured well for candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
With an incumbent president this year, we don’t have a side-by-side comparison. But I imagine the White House tonight would be shot through with concern if Iowans had turned out in droves for the GOP. They didn’t.
If anyone attracted new and younger voters to the caucuses, it was Ron Paul—who I can say with certainty will not be the nominee.
Romney, for his part, does well among wealthy, older voters. Tonight’s results are mildly troubling for Romney—but more than mildly troubling for the GOP long-term.
The party appeals mostly to a segment of the country that’s literally dying.