By Tom Quiner
My fair state has given us much to chew on after last night’s Caucuses. A few reactions …
Negative campaigning pays. Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and their pressure groups launched a focused smear campaign on former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich. It worked. Mr. Gingrich lost half of his support in one month thanks to the unprecedented hit ads run by Mssrs. Romney and Paul. The ads distorted much of Mr. Gingrich’s record. The Republican Party was surely dishonored by their shameless attacks on one of our own. Should either Paul and Romney win the nomination, they will have a hard time engendering any passion from those of us who support Newt Gingrich.
Positive campaigning pays. Rick Santorum ran a clean, issue-oriented campaign. As Newt Gingrich stated in his gracious post-caucus speech last night:
“I’d like to take a minute to congratulate a good friend of ours, someone we admire, whose family we admire, Rick Santorum. He waged a great, positive campaign. I served with Rick. We’ve had a great relationship over the years. I admire the courage and the discipline, and the the way he focused, and admire how positive he remained.”
Rick Santorum is a good man and a good candidate. I am delighted by his strong showing.
Republicans should be worried. Turnout was only incrementally higher than four years ago. If a watershed election like this one can’t turn out an outpouring of new voters, what can? On the other hand, it was still a record turnout. Let’s see what happens in other states.
The field narrows. With the news that Michelle Bachman has suspended her campaign, can Rick Perry be far behind? And if Jon Huntsman has a weaker-than-expected performance in New Hampshire next week, his candidacy will be on extremely shaky ground. That means that the next round of debates will loom large. Rick Santorum should get more debate time because of his strong Iowa finish and smaller field. And Newt Gingrich can regain momentum doing what he does best: debating. There is no love lost between Mssrs. Gingrich and Romney. Watch the gloves come off. No one will want to miss the show.
Obama should be feeling pretty good. Mitt Romney’s strong performance solidifies his front-runner status. Assuming he wins New Hampshire next week as expected, he will have a lot of momentum and will be tough for his Republican rivals to slow down. Mitt Romney is the weakest of the Republican candidates in a one-on-one against Barack Obama (excluding Ron Paul who has no serious chance of winning the nomination). His convictions are in question. He was an unpopular one term Governor of Massachusetts whose style of governing would best be described as Obama-lite. Coupled with his smear campaign against Newt Gingrich, a lot of Republicans and Independents may have a tough time putting up Romney yard signs; talking him up to their fence-sitting friends; and perhaps even voting for him.
The Catholic connection. Two candidates, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, embrace the Roman Catholic faith. Mr. Romney, via his surrogates, has attacked one. Will he attack the other whose candidacy is in ascendancy? I hope not, because the Catholic vote may very well swing this year’s election. [See a previous post, “The Catholic Vote Will Determine the Next President.”] Mr. Romney needs the enthusiastic backing of practicing Catholics who view abortion and traditional marriage as top-burner issues.