Each morning, Bill Scher and Terrance Heath serve up what progressives need to effect change on the kitchen-table issues families face: jobs, health care, green energy, financial reform, affordable education and retirement security.
MORNING MESSAGE: Mitt or Santorum? It Hardly Matters
OurFuture.Org’s Isaiah J. Poole : “Don’t get too distracted by the fissures in the Republican electorate revealed in Tuesday night’s Iowa caucus vote. On basic economic issues, in fact, the candidates are remarkably united; there’s hardly 8 votes worth of difference between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. While there are certainly differences on the margins between the former governor of Massachusetts and the former senator from Pennsylvania on economic policy issues, on the basic economic direction the candidates would take the country you could just about say that the winner of the Iowa caucus was ‘Mitt Santorum’ with 50 percent of the vote.”
Romney (Barely) Wins Iowa
Romney defeats Santorum by 8 votes in Iowa [CNN]: “Mitt Romney defeated Rick Santorum in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses by eight votes, the state GOP said early Wednesday, clinching what appears to be the closest-ever margin of victory in a Republican presidential contest. Ron Paul finished a close third, according to the state GOP. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who placed fifth, said late Tuesday that he would return to his home state to consider whether his campaign would continue. Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had 30,015 votes. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and an upstart challenger who just weeks ago polled in the single digits, had 30,007, the state GOP said.”
Romney Challenges New Hampshire Upset History in Pivotal Primary [BusinessWeek]: “Mitt Romney is counting on New Hampshire voters to resist their traditional contrarian practice of upsetting presidential front-runners and deliver him a victory so resounding that he’s set on the path to the Republican nomination. Romney, who has held commanding leads in most statewide opinion polls during the almost three years he has been campaigning there, is looking to reinforce his claim to the party’s mantle after barely winning the Iowa caucuses. Anything less than a victory in New Hampshire on Jan. 10 would hurt his chances even as it confirms the state’s reputation for keeping the candidates and the rest of the nation guessing.”
Gary Young writes that Santorum’s surge means Romney’s no winner: “Santorum’s rise (as opposed to Ron Paul’s, whose support is unlikely to broaden) will force Romney to run, rather than stroll, to the nomination. …It also confirms the impression that Romney is not the Republican frontrunner by choice but by default. True, he spent very little time in Iowa until the very end. But Republicans haven’t had a field as weak as this since 1996 and he still can’t break 25% in a swing state the party will want to win back against Barack Obama come November. Polls suggest his inability to break 25% is not a local problem. Republicans are just not that into him.”
Business Insider’s Grace Wyler says Ron Paul may have secretly won the Iowa caucuses: “Ron Paul may have officially come in third tonight, but if the campaign’s caucus strategy went off as planned, then Paul may actually be the real winner of the first Republican voting contest. That’s because Paul’s massive organizational push in Iowa focused on both winning votes, and also on making sure that Paul supporters stuck around after the vote to make sure they were selected as county delegates — the first step towards being elected as a delegate to the Republican National Convention. That’s because Iowa’s Republican caucuses are non-binding — they are technically just a straw poll, so once selected, delegates are free to vote for whichever presidential candidate they choose.
What Iowa Means
Team Obama sees signs of Romney weakness [Politico]: “Barack Obama’s 2008 Iowa caucus win was propelled by record Democratic turnout — and his campaign was taking solace Tuesday night in a far lower level of GOP enthusiasm this time that led to a near deadlock between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. …Obama’s campaign saw the results as an indicator of GOP ennui — and a validation of their own strategy of focusing on get-out-the-vote operations in battleground states. Obama senior campaign strategist David Axelrod [said], ‘You’d have to say the story is: Iowa to Mitt. No sale. Beyond that, for all the patter about GOP enthusiasm, turnout was unimpressive.’”
Luntz Warns GOP: ‘A War Is About To Break Out Within This Primary Field’ [NPR]: “At Ron Paul’s caucus night event in Ankeny, Iowa, most of his supporters were celebrating. …But one man in the crowd — famed Republican strategist Frank Luntz — was much more concerned with what happens next. …For Luntz, the lack of a clear GOP front-runner will make for a protracted primary season that could drag on through April. And he says it won’t be pretty: ‘Republicans are not gonna like what’s about to happen. … I think a war is about to break out within this primary field.’”
NYT says the Iowa caucuses showcase just how extreme the GOP mainstream has become: “The Iowa caucuses, in which a nation awaits the verdict of a handful of some of its least representative citizens, are not going to settle the race for the Republican nomination for president. But they did put on display the choice the Republicans present to voters: right, far right or the far, far right. …The errors, absurd misstatements and unrelenting extremism were not the result of some “gotcha” moment in which a candidate was cornered in an interview or debate by a tricky (or maybe not so tricky) question. The Republicans have had months, millions of dollars and the advantage of there being no competing Democratic contest, to present the images of their own choosing — and they are dark and disturbing.”
Daily Beast’s John Avalon says Iowa shows the Republican’s enthusiasm advantage has evaporated : “The most ominous sign for the GOP might be the low turnout in Iowa after the Tea Party-driven enthusiasms of 2010. Roughly 123,000 of 640,000 registered Republicans in the state turned out to vote, along the lines of 2008, when dueling Democrats absorbed most of the electoral energy.”
Does Iowa Matter?
Leslie Marshall explains why the Iowa caucuses don’t matter: “The bottom line is, I’m not worried. I’m not worried about who wins Iowa and I’m not worried about who is on the GOP platform because at the end of the day, the American people who don’t want their Medicare slashed, who don’t want to go to war with Iran, who don’t want to sit back and let people be slaughtered in places like Libya or Egypt due to isolationism, who are realists about the Middle East and the inevitability of a two state solution and who are studying facts, such as the economy is turning around and the unemployment rate is slowly coming down know there is only one guy for them. And that is the very man who is sitting in the White House, the man who we still count on for hope and change, not some consolation prize.”
Ana Marie Cox says that Iowa matters, but shouldn’t: “In a way, it’s an easy question. Iowa does matter. It matters because you can’t have so many reporters covering something and have that event not matter. The Iowa caucuses mean about as much to the presidential nomination as the Golden Globes do to the Oscars – though there is a persuasive argument that Golden Globe voters are more representative of the Oscar electorate than Iowans are of general election voters. Iowans’ lack of resemblance to the rest of the country underlies the most persuasive arguments for why tonight’s results shouldn’t matter. It’s not just demographics that make it an outlier, either. Lately, GOP operatives have grumbled about the resources put into winning a state whose (Republican-voting) citizens show little apparent interest in picking someone who could actually be president…”
At WaPo, Sarah Kliff writes that the Iowa caucus doesn’t even matter much to Iowa — economically speaking, that is: “For decades, Iowa has fiercely defended its first-in-the-nation status in the presidential election cycle. That distinction earns the Midwestern state no shortage of media attention every four years, as candidates aggressively court its voters. But what about the economic impact? Does the state get an economic boost from all the attention from politicians and journalists? Nope. All the political focus on Iowa comes with surprisingly little pay-off.”
WaPo’s Harold Meyerson breaks it to us gently — America is no longer the land of opportunity: “The best way to measure a nation’s merit-based status is to look at its intergenerational economic mobility: Do children move up and down the economic ladder based on their own abilities, or does their economic standing simply replicate their parents’? Sadly, as the American middle class has thinned out over recent decades, the idea of America as the land of opportunity has become a farce. As a paper by Julia Isaacs of the Brookings Institution has shown, sons’ earnings approximate those of their fathers about three times more frequently in the United States than they do in Denmark, Norway and Finland, and about 11 / 2 times more frequently than they do in Germany. The European social democracies — where taxes, entitlements and the rate of unionization greatly exceed America’s — are demonstrably more merit-based than the United States.”
William Pfaff sees Ron Paul’s popularity as a sign of a war-weary America: “The clear crossover vote-getter issue on which Paul has differed from the rest of the candidate crowd is war: his hostility to the commitment of both Democratic and Republican administrations to prosecuting undeclared war in the Middle East, South Asia and everywhere else that is harboring what the American government has chosen to identify as agents of ‘terror,’ ‘Islamic terrorists’ or ‘violent extremists.’ Americans are not much given to pacifism. We are a fairly bloody-minded society, even though for many years we were given over to isolationism, which is not at all the same as pacifism. Paul is not a pacifist in the classical sense… He is an old-fashioned mind-our-own business American of the kind that opposes going abroad to seek out monsters to destroy, as has been the American policy in the Middle East during most of the last half-century.”