Iowa Voters Guide

January 2, 2012 by staff 

Iowa Voters Guide, It is fitting that the first contest of the 2012 presidential election is up for grabs. After eight months of a baffling, unprecedented Republican nominating process, it should be no surprise that the Iowa caucuses are baffling too.

There are five candidates clustered within 10 points in the Real Clear Politics average for Iowa, and all but one of them have led at least once before.

There’s no telling what kind of turnout there will be. Are Republicans frustrated enough with their options that they will stay home, giving the edge to the candidates with better organizations and more devoted supporters? Or, are they worried enough about a second Obama term that they will turn out anyway? And if they show up, how will they vote?

To help you keep track, Power Play offers the following cheat sheet on the candidates and their Iowa efforts. Iowa Polling Average: 21.8 percent

Needs: A win or a victory by a candidate unable to challenge him in a national contest

“This is an election that’s not being driven by money raised. It’s being driven by message, a connection with the voters, debates, experience, and I think those are the features that have been driving the campaign so far. I think they will be through the entire process.”

– Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney when asked Sunday about claims by Newt Gingrich that Romney, who has spent millions on attack ads, would buy a win in the Iowa caucuses “if he could.”

Mitt Romney did not expect to win in Iowa, and mostly stayed away in an effort to minimize the significance of the contest, which is famously tilted toward conservative candidates and difficult for moderates like Romney.

But, with the more conservative candidates clumped together and exhausted at the end of a brutal boom-and-bust pre-primary process, Romney may be able to do in Iowa what he is attempting to do nationally: slingshot past a divided Republican right.

A win in Iowa would be a huge boost to Romney and would help dampen turnout by conservative activists in later primaries. The sooner the inevitability train starts rolling, the faster it will be rolling when Romney gets to must-win contests like Florida and Super Tuesday.

But what really matters in Iowa for Romney is who doesn’t win.

Romney would be well served by victories by libertarian Rep. Ron Paul or cultural conservative icon former Sen. Rick Santorum. Both are niche candidates who have clear ceilings in their national support and would perfectly support the original narrative from the Romney campaign that Iowa is an ideological outlier and that the caucus results should be mostly ignored.

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