Monday, January 23, 2012

It Was A Bad Night For Paper Tigers

Well that was a thumping! A week ago Mitt Romney was inevitable. He had a double digit lead over his opponents in South Carolina. He was two for two. He was the one with the money and the national organization we were told ad nauseam. The pressure was on for all candidates to get out of the race and join in the coronation.

A week later and the Romney paper tiger has been slayed. He didn't win Iowa after all. (For the life of me I do not understand why Santorum allowed Romney to claim victory when it was a tie. But I digress.) All the organization, money, establishment support proved to be an empty threat. At the end of the day, Romney was exposed for what he is. A deeply flawed candidate. James Carville summarized it best when he said the media will never report "... a senior Romney strategist today said we are just going to go out and let Mitt be Mitt."

But Romney was not the only paper tiger that was exposed by South Carolina voters.

Last weekend the self-appointed leaders of evangelical Christians met in Texas and decided to throw their support behind Rick Santorum. The media immediately heralded this development as a game changer. Can't really blame the media. Exit polls show that 65% of the voters on Saturday were evangelicals. And for years individuals like Land, Dobson, Perkins and Bauer have put on a great show passing themselves as leaders of Republican evangelicals. It was only logical to assume that their endorsement was going to have a noticeable impact.

The results are in and Newt won the evangelicals handily by capturing 44% of their vote. How did Santorum do? Worse than Romney. Santorum received 21% of the vote.  Romney received 22%. Even Santorum seemed surprised by the results. I suppose he bought into their act too. Perhaps in the future Republican candidates will not waste their time courting these individuals whose brand of Christianity is very narrow. Not now that their inability to deliver votes in places like South Carolina has been exposed.

It should also be obvious that the Wall Street Journal and Club for Growth have little influence with Republican voters. The Romney campaign was quick to use quotes from their editorials and press releases, respectively, denouncing Newt's attacks on Bain. For a week we heard that Newt's tactics were backfiring. That Romney was now positioned as the defender of free enterprise and that was a great place to be in a Republican primary.

According to exit polls 97% were Very/Somewhat worried about the direction of the nation's economy in the next few years. Gingrich captured 40% of their vote and Romney received 27%. Remember understanding the economy is supposedly Romney's strength. Obviously, the Bain attacks worked. Believing in capitalism does not mean blindly following the Wall Street Journal Editorial. Same for the Club for Growth.

As the campaign season progresses it will be interesting to see whether more conventional wisdom is overturned. Whether more paper tigers are exposed. It is an exciting time for the Republican Party. It is an exciting time for America.