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Posted at 9:30 AM ET, 01/18/2011

Why we can't discount Iowa

By Jennifer Rubin

In response to my post yesterday on each contender's path to the 2012 GOP nomination, I heard from a number of readers questioning whether the Iowa caucuses are all that important. Let's put it this way: Beating, or failing to beat, expectations in Iowa, and then again in New Hampshire, matters very much. The best example of this is the ill-fated campaign of Rudy Giuliani in 2008. He did poorly in both states and was out of the race long before the Florida primary that he believed was his best chance for victory.

In 2008, John McCain did well enough in Iowa to gain some momentum. After winning New Hampshire, he was on his way to the nomination. Likewise, Mitt Romney underperformed in Iowa (beaten by a late-charging Mike Huckabee), and again in his neighboring state of New Hampshire. He never recovered.

So each candidate has a different equation in Iowa. For Romney, if he competes he has to win. Not competing would garner some criticism, but that's mild compared to the risk of losing. (For all intents and purposes, he is the front-runner for 2012.) For Tim Pawlenty, a win isn't necessary. Finishing in the top few spot is good enough. Because outside of South Carolina, Iowa is Mike Huckabee's strongest state, a loss there would likely spell the end of his bid.

In short, it's not winning per se, but beating the spread in early states that matters.

By Jennifer Rubin  | January 18, 2011; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  2012 campaign  
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I would like to know why the right-wingers need their own column in the Post. Isn't it enough that they already have essentially the Bush-neocon Propaganda Crew running the place?

Perhaps we liberals could have a column called "Left to Us", where we deal with the disasters, the bungles, the scams and swindles, the multiple wars and the World's Biggest Bad Debt left to us by the Conservatives, who refuse to pay taxes to cover their debts.

What'cha think, Jennie?

Posted by: gkam | January 18, 2011 10:20 AM | Report abuse

@gkam, why don't you write to The Post and suggest it?

The Post contracted with Ms. Rubin primarily as a way to bleed less red ink. If you can demonstrate how your idea would be profitable for the organization, I'm sure they would give it serious consideration.

Posted by: MsJS | January 18, 2011 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Why is it always the left that wants debate squelched? The Post has many left wing opinionators on it to satisfy any left winger and yet the right has Jen Rubin and its a daily issue for these people because they can't stand contrary points of view. Jen keep up the great work you are doing. I don't always agree with you, but you have a pretty consistent point of view and its helpful in giving perspective on the issues.

Posted by: steven2012 | January 18, 2011 11:43 AM | Report abuse


I agree with you about the importance of the early states, but disagree with you about Tim Pawlenty. He has zero name recognition and his state borders Iowa to the North. His best shot is a caucus state and a win in Iowa instantly propels him in the discussion for the nomination. IF he finishes third or worst in Iowa, where does his money come from to continue on in the race?

Another point is the primary schedule change made by both parties to prevent an early knockout. I think with Palin in the field, you will have a protracted primary campaign between her and Romney. I think both candidates have a strong organization, both will raise money, and both will win early states.

The way the delegates are now awarded proportionally for the most part, will keep a well financed candidate in the race and its likely the GOP contest will narrow down to Palin vs anti-Palin, in the person of Romney, Bush or Daniels. I think this would be healthy for the party because with the exception of Jeb Bush, Romney and Daniels suffer for lack of name recognition and Palin as some have suggested suffers from lack of gravitas. A protracted race will aid in ameliorating these deficiencies in the candidates and so I say, let the best person win!

Posted by: steven2012 | January 18, 2011 11:51 AM | Report abuse

To the extent that Iowa has become more conservative, (they went for George Bush over Reagan in 1980 when he was still a moderate, but chose Huckabee over Romney 30 years later) that will be problematic for the GOP.

If beating expectations means more conservative candidates do well, this is not a recipe for victory in the fall. The country is centrist, neither right nor left, with strong conservative areas.

Four out of the last five presidential popular votes have gone to the Dems, and Obama also has the power of incumbency. Swing voters on the national level simply won't vote for Palin, Huckabee, or Gingrich no matter what, as the GOP leadership knows.

If you're right about Daniels not running, then it's a two-way race between Romney, and Pawlenty, which favors Pawlenty. As the front runner, and a weathervane to boot, Romney is going to catch all the bullets.

If you're betting with history, then neither Ryan nor Pence can win from the House, even if they can get the nomination. Likewise Thune and Barbour are probably running for the VP spot.

Rubio is the wild card. Common sense should tell him he's too young, but that would leave the 2016 race between he and Ryan all the way. He may enter now, just to steal a march on Ryan (and vice versa for that matter).

A bad 2012 economy could leave the door open for Rubio, if he jumps in.

Posted by: johnmarshall5446 | January 18, 2011 11:57 AM | Report abuse

All the polls say Huckabee is the clear front runner. If he chooses to run, he'll win Iowa handily. He will likely skip New Hampshire and focus on winning South Carolina (which he only BARELY lost in 2008 to McCain, despite having part of the social conservative vote bled off by Fred Thompson. Romney will win New Hampshire and Nevada, as expected. Next comes Florida - where Huckabee won 13% of the vote last time despite having no name recognition and no money with which to compete. This time he'll have both. And he's a resident.

Posted by: bluestaterepublican | January 18, 2011 4:00 PM | Report abuse

@gkam, why don't you write to The Post and suggest it?

The Post contracted with Ms. Rubin primarily as a way to bleed less red ink. If you can demonstrate how your idea would be profitable for the organization, I'm sure they would give it serious consideration.

Posted by: MsJS


MsJS, there are probably Chinese interests who would like to buy the Post as a propaganda instrument for their national interests. If they offer Fred Hiatt a better deal, should he sell off the Post to them? Are there any other interests in life other than "making the biggest buck"? You know, like "values"? Just curious if you still remember what those are.

Rubin and her neocon gang are spokespeople for a cohort who, in any moral country, would be standing trial for war crimes for the million dead Iraqi civilians whose blood is on their hands. Does that count for anything in your world?

Posted by: B2O2 | January 18, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

"Shut Up!" ...B202 and gkam explained!

Posted by: TominColorado | January 18, 2011 9:04 PM | Report abuse

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