Friday, November 04, 2011

Romney and Iowa.

John Heilemann writes the best "insider" column about the 2012 presidential campaign. In this week's issue of New York magazine, he reviews the Romney campaign's Iowa temptation.

The basics are this: Romney is currently running at about 25% in Iowa. He can probably get to 30% or even 33% -- if he decides to make a major investment in the state -- which might just be enough to win Iowa outright. (Iowa's caucuses are held after a straw poll is conducted. The straw poll results are what get reported on television the night of the caucuses.)

On the other hand, if Romney does make a major Iowa push and comes in second in the straw poll, he risks going into New Hampshire a week later on a 24/7 wave of television bad news. Because once Romney decides he's going to try to win Iowa, then that's the story. Political reporters have their angle. From that point forward, as one source told Heilemann, it's "all about Mitt."

So what does he do? The most likely answer: Romney sticks to his knitting, doesn't invest in Iowa and takes his 20%-25%.

Romney is running well in New Hampshire; his campaign has built a firewall there. His entire campaign is based on winning New Hampshire convincingly and then defeating not-Romney in a longish war of attrition thereafter. Anything that might jeopardize the New Hampshire firewall is by definition a bad idea.

God must be a Mormon this year, because events are making the Iowa go/no-go decision a lot easier. The Herman Cain "scandal," the addled Perry New Hampshire speech and the mini-rise of Newt Gingrich are providing more than enough copy to keep political reporters occupied. In three weeks, it's Thanksgiving. Then it's the Christmas season. Then it's January 3, 2012, which is when the Iowa caucuses are being held. The New Hampshire primary is January 10th.

The more the news focuses on the "not-Romneys," the easier it is for Romney to slide by Iowa and have his candidacy put to the test in New Hampshire. Romney's "luck" is holding.