Iowa Forecast Is Clear as Mud

Thursday, 22 Dec 2011 11:26 AM

By Simon Conway

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It really doesn’t matter what the polls might be telling you — I’m telling you that the twists and turns of the First in the Nation caucuses in Iowa are a long way from being done.

The pollsters want you to believe that they know what’s going on, but you try and treat Iowa like the rest of the country at your peril.

First of all — and perhaps most importantly — Iowa can’t be bought. Sure a big ad spend might move the needle a few points, but you are never going to be able to buy Iowa.

Ask Mitt Romney about that from his 2008 campaign.

You have to work for victory in Iowa. really work. And that is why the likes of Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum are going to do better here than their poll numbers might suggest.

If we just look at these two on their own for a moment maybe you will see why. Santorum has been in Iowa the longest and probably worked the hardest of any candidate here. He has done what we refer to as “the full Grassley” — meaning he has visited all 99 counties in less than 12 months — something Republican Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley does every year. It’s tough. We are not talking about drive-bys. We are talking about meetings. Events. Actually talking to real people with real problems.

Santorum gets it and has worked very hard for it.

Perhaps the very best at retail politics is Michele Bachmann. She is never happier than when talking directly to the people and answering their questions. Often she finds a way to upset the media because frequently she is late for them. Why? Because she refuses to leave events until the last person has asked the last question.

Right now she is on a 10-day bus tour to complete “the full Grassley” as well, although it certainly won’t be as effective as what Santorum has done in taking his time, she is still doing it. She too gets it.

Just a few months ago I went to a ball game with Michele Bachmann. It was Arena League Football and the Iowa Barnstormers were kicking butt.

The most interesting thing for me however, was the line of people — literally a line — who all wanted the Congresswoman to sign something; listen to something; be photographed with someone or just simply have their hand taken by hers.

She was treated like a rock star and it was something to see especially as I was literally right next to her. She understands the power of that better than anyone. And it is hugely powerful.

Of course she went on to win the Ames Straw Poll, but that was the same day that Rick Perry announced.

He shot to the top of the polls and stayed there until some very bad debate mistakes. But although he is trying very hard to portray himself as the outsider, the governor of Texas is a very savvy politician.

Rick Perry is in the middle of a 44-city tour and is hoping that this along with his last two and much improved debate performances (I thought he won one of them) and the big ad spend will all be enough to move the needle up by sufficient percentage points for him to get out of Iowa in a respectable position.

And don’t ever forget that he is a nice guy. People who meet him like him — even if they don’t agree with him politically. During a commercial break at the Drake University debate, the Governor came over to me and saw I was wearing my usual boots.

He explained how they weren’t going to work for me during the Iowa winter. He told me exactly what to get. I mean seriously . . . boot advice from the governor of Texas. Very cool!

From a Republican voter perspective, this state is still hunting for a conservative. It thought it had one in Herman Cain, but the campaign to take him out was successful and so the people went hunting again.

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich seemed like an obvious place to land. I mean he really is the smartest guy in the room and proved it in debate after debate. But he has a major problem, and it isn’t what you’ve been reading about.

You see Newt wasn’t running. He was doing great in debates, but he wasn’t running a campaign and to win in Iowa you don’t simply need to be popular, you need to be organized. Newt had no campaign here. Nothing

He started to rise in the polls because of outstanding debate performances and it was at that point that he hastily had to put together a campaign. He has done so, but to be successful across 99 counties takes months of planning. Newt hasn’t even been campaigning for months.

That leaves us with Romney and Paul. Romney has got to be secretly asking himself what he has to do. Here’s a man who has made almost no mistakes; who has nothing in his private life that will come back to haunt him; who has successfully run businesses and saved an Olympic games from ruin . . . and I could go on, but for some reason he cannot seem to get above 23 percent or so. And not just in Iowa, but across the country.

And to be honest it is quite hard to explain, until you realize that despite what the left would have you believe, the tea party is alive and well and desperately seeking a conservative. For whatever reason, they are not buying Romney as one.

It hasn’t helped that he hasn’t been here all that much; it hasn’t helped that he has appeared testy in some interviews — most recently on Fox; and it hasn’t helped that he hasn’t made himself all that available to the media either. But I’m guessing — and that is all it is — that he realizes he did all that four years ago and it didn’t work. New election . . . new tactics.

Ron Paul is certainly the surprise package this time round. His fanatical fans — and they are fans — won’t hear a word spoken against their hero.

He can do no wrong in their eyes, but the Democrat-polling organization PPP, is making its own headlines by not exactly telling the whole truth and nothing but the truth, thereby presenting Paul with some great PR he can use — particularly now they say he is leading in Iowa.

Only registered Republicans can vote in the Iowa caucuses. For the PPP poll to come true, independents and Democrats in very big numbers will have to change their party affiliation. I simply don’t see it happening. When you dig into this latest poll and look at the Republican result, Paul is only polling 19 percent. Can he win? Yes. Will he win? No.

So there you have it. Clear as mud!

Iowa simply isn’t done yet.

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