As I was preparing a post saying that if I were a betting man, I’d bet on Ron Paul to win the Iowa caucuses today, I received an unusual e-mail, reporting that the “Irish betting company Paddy Power” has determined Mitt Romney to be the favourite for today’s Iowa caucus: “The former Massachusetts governor is available at Evens with his nearest challengers’ libertarian Texas congressman Ron Paul and surprise package Rick Santorum both available at 2/1.”
Although I expect said Texan to win by a narrow margin, I would hedge my bet a bit. A lot depends on how the late-deciders break. Many polls have shown a substantial number of undecideds and have indicated that some voters who have expressed support for one candidate or another are not firm in that support, that is, they could change their mind.
Paul will win, I believe, because he has the most enthusiastic supporters, those who would walk over broken glass to get to their respective caucus sites. A Paul supporter in this video says he’d vote for Paul even he had two broken legs. Paul’s also got a good campaign infrastructure in place.
Now, there remains a chance that Rick Santorum could win in Iowa, that is, if the undecideds break his way–and those voters not firm in their support for the other social conservative in the race (Michele Bachmann) fall his way. Problem is that many (one-time Bachmann supporters) have already done so–and there are fewer and fewer of her supporters for the former Pennsylvania Senator to pick up.
A lot depends on who those late-deciers are. If they are primarily voters to whom social issues are paramount, Santorum could win. If they are more mainstream Reagan conservatives, that could benefit Romney significantly.
Now that I’ve offered some predictions, let me offer some hypothetical results and their implications:
Should Mrs. Bachmann do as polls suggest she will, it’s over for her.
Should Newt Gingrich come in fourth or lower, Newt-mentum (or whatever they’ve been calling it) is over. Given his recent surge, even a third-place showing all but rules him out of contention.
Should Romney win and Rick Perry come in a strong fourth, the Texas Governor could still emerge as the best alternative to Romney.
Should Romney win with a higher number of votes — and higher percentage of the total tally — he strengthens his hand as frontrunner and all but guarantees his nomination. If he finishes a close second–or even close third–he’s still in contention. The former Massachusetts Governor doesn’t need to win to remain in contention, but a victory tonight would make his nomination seem increasingly inevitable.
ADDENDUM: To make clear that although, by and large, like Ron Paul’s domestic policy agenda, I could never vote for a guy with a foreign policy as whacky as his nor for a guy who has a record of publishing the nutty stuff that he did. I’m pretty much with Ace on this one.