Follow up on Iowa from Americas PAC and Americas Majority Foundation
by Tom Donelson on January 5, 2012 at 5:04 PM
The following are my thoughts on what happened in Iowa. The first lesson to learn is that negative campaigning works and money matters. Newt Gingrich had no recourse to respond to the barrage of negative campaigning done by Super PACS in support of Romney. Some 10 million dollars was spent against Gingrich and with no money to answer, Gingrich lost ground quickly. The second lesson to learn is that organization matters and so does grassroot support. Rick Santorum won because he found significant grassroot support when Bob Vander Plaats endorsed him and with him, an army of social conservative volunteers walking the street for Santorum.
At my precinct, social conservatives came out in full force and overwhelmed Mitt Romney and Ron Paul supporters as my caucus was held at a local evangelical church. Ron Paul's own performance was supported by grassroot support. (I have a few comments to conclude about Paul and his invisible army.) Combine money with grassroots, get out the vote ground game, and you have unbeatable team. In Iowa, no campaign truly combined both. Romney depended upon ads as he had very little organization in Iowa compared to Santorum or Paul. Gingrich had neither, so he lost because of it and Santorum's grassroots tied Romney's money. So the big lesson for Republicans is that they better have both, money and organization since Obama will as he will have a ton of money to go with a GOTV organization. Another lesson is Super PACS matter as they can attack with relentless abandon while allowing the candidate to run a more positive campaign. In Iowa, Romney allied Super PACs did most of the attacking while Romney ads centered on his message of job creation and experience. His ads were more positive than the Super PACs, which were nothing more than one attack after another. The Democrats will repeat the same tactic with some 70 times more than what was spent in Iowa.
Another lesson is that the GOP is divided on an economic front. Santorum's message is compassionate conservatism combined with a industrial policy for manufacturing. Santorum made the point that 28% should be the top rate because it was good enough for Reagan. He has very little mention of reforming entitlements, and his message is more populist than free market as Santorum is appealing to blue collar workers who are being abandoned by Obama. His message is that we will provide for you. It is not a growth oriented message but a recent piece in Forbes makes the same point about Romney that he is not thinking growth in policy matters. Right now, the growth message is being carried by Gingrich and Perry, two candidates that are mortally wounded. Interesting enough, those candidates who talked growth, job creation and hope rose.
Herman Cain did well when he talked about 9-9-9, but faltered when he ran into trouble with one woman accusation after another. Gingrich did not have the resources to carry his campaign forward and Rick Perry simply had trouble defending his position. The growth message is running aground and this could hurt the Republicans come Fall. Austerity and populism is taking over from growth. While populism may sell among blue collar workers that the Democrat Party has given up, a growth campaign can dent the Democratic strategy among the wealthier suburban voters where growth matters.
Now a review on the Ron Paul voters. Paul attracted young voters and was able to grab the significant numbers of voters under making under 50,000 dollars, which shows that the Paul libertarian view is attractive to many working class plus his limited government focus has also attracted independents. Those who viewed budget deficit as the number one issue voted for Paul, whereas those who viewed the economy as the number one issue went for Romney. 13% of those who showed up to the caucus considered abortion as their number one issue, and they voted overwhelming for Santorum.
The point to take away is two fold. Abortion and social issues are important to a small but significant number of voters, and they will vote Republican. The second thing is that over three quarters of the caucus goers viewed as their number one issue either budget deficit or the economy (which I believe means job creation), so "it's the economy, stupid!" The question is how do we keep a signficant number of Paul supporters, many of whom are not Republicans, but independents that are concerned with the economy. The Tea Party message of spending cuts and budget deficits still is strong among many independents.