Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Can We Now Go Back to Ignoring Iowa?

Now that Rick Santorum has (reportedly) come within 8 votes of winning the Iowa Caucuses, can we finally stop paying attention to them as if they have any real national significance?

On a slightly more serious note, in contrast to CNN's claim that the Iowa results are a "big win" for Santorum, I view Mitt Romney as the big winner. For months, one challenger after another has taken leads over Romney in Iowa polls, only to fall by the wayside. It is, in a sense, an upset that Romney prevailed at all, by however slim a margin. He beat the toughest competitor in the field: the anyone-but-Mitt candidate.

The implication from the Iowa result is that for all of the (well-founded) suspicions of Romney's conservative credentials and his flip-flopping on issues, which will expose him to withering attacks in a general election campaign against President Obama, Romney remains the strongest Republican contender in an admittedly weak field. Even in a state like Iowa, with lots of "values voters" (a pernicious label that implies other voters are unprincipled), the practical desire to nominate an electable presidential candidate narrowly overrode other values. I actually find this reassuring, though I remain very troubled by the high level of support for Santorum, who is not only unelectable but ideologically rigid and intellectually several cards short of a full deck.

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