Michael Brendan Dougherty
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Mitt Romney won 25.19 percent of the vote in Iowa in 2008 – and lost that contest by 9 points.
Since then, Mitt Romney spent millions of dollars. He got better at debating. He annihilated Rick Perry. The SuperPAC aligned to Romney took out a surging Newt Gingrich with negative ads. And Romney focused his energy on attacking Barack Obama.
All that got him was 25 percent of the vote. Almost exactly the 2008 result he had in Iowa. He lost the nomination then. This isn’t exactly the start to 2012 Team Romney was expecting.
75 percent of Republican Caucus-goers want someone that isn’t Mitt Romney – a result that reflects polls nationwide.
And now Mitt Romney has four problems.
1) The media is going to hound Mitt Romney for underperforming – because they hate a frontrunner, because they appreciate an underdog, and because they are desperate for a real, hard-fought contest.
2) Newt Gingrich basically turned his concession speech into an announcement that his campaign would not longer be about winning – but about stopping Mitt Romney from winning, and Ron Paul from influencing Republican foreign policy. Mike Huckabee became determined to perform a kamikaze attack on Romney four years ago and it worked.
3) Rick Santorum is going to soak up a lot of oxygen this week. If he had rise weeks ago, he would have been given intense scrutiny. Now all that scrutiny will be leavened by flattering accounts of “how he did it” and how “he might just do it again” in New Hampshire.
4) Jon Huntsman was the only other candidate besides Rick Santorum that wasn’t damaged by tonight’s results. He didn’t compete, so he didn’t underperform. He is going to get fresh attention and he is going to be focused on tearing Romney down.
Romney can take care of all four of these problems if he simply translates his 40 percent poll numbers into 40 percent of the vote on Tuesday.