Two names come to mind when one considers who will win and who will lose in the Iowa GOP caucuses Tuesday, Jan. 3. That’s when Republican party faithful will gather at 1,744 precincts across the state, ending the three or four years of political maneuvering that lead to the kickoff of the 2012 presidential campaign.
Predictions of the caucus turnout range from 15 to 23 percent of the 613,000 registered Republicans in Iowa.
Regardless of turnout, the outcome of the caucuses is often in the hands of the press and political pundits who take a look at the caucus results and pronounce who did better than expected — those are the winner(s) — and who fell short — the losers.
But it is difficult not to list Democratic President Barack Obama among the winners and the Iowa GOP among the losers, even though neither is on the ballot.
Sadly for the Iowa GOP, the Republican candidates who have spent the most time in Iowa and contributed much money to the state party coffers appear to be those who will fall short of expectations. That is hardly an incentive for future candidates to view Iowa as important or to contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Iowa GOP.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann forked over $214,000 to the Iowa GOP and — barring a loaves and fishes miracle on caucus night — about the only person she will finish ahead of is Jon Huntsman, who spent almost no time in the state and gave the Iowa GOP zilch. (Former Minnesota Gov. Tom Pawlenty almost lived in Iowa before a third-place finish in the Iowa Straw poll ended his candidacy last summer; former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum also was omnipresent with little apparent payoff for his campaign.)
So, Obama wins; the Iowa GOP loses. What about those on the ballot aside from Bachmann?
In terms of expectations, where does one set the bar for Newt Gingrich — all but written off three months ago and then viewed as a frontrunner two weeks ago? And given the existence of an ABM (Anybody But Mitt) brigade in Iowa, what are the expectations for Mitt Romney? Both, I expect, will be unscathed and not helped much by the caucus vote and both will advance to the New Hampshire primary on Jan. 10. Gov. Rick Perry will join them with enough campaign funds to overcome a likely Iowa disappointment.
The votes of the Christian zealots in the Iowa GOP will be split mostly between Bachmann and Santorum. That’s no surprise, not with Herman Cain withdrawing from the race and Pawlenty’s early out.
Right-wing preachers and congregants vow to give either Bachmann or Santorum a boost in Iowa — much as they did for the Rev. Pat Robertson back in 1988, when he finished second, behind Sen. Bob Dole and ahead of Vice President George H.W. Bush. But Bachmann and Santorum may have outstayed their welcome among the general electorate.
U.S. Rep. Ron Paul?
Oh, him! He is likely to be the top vote getter at the Iowa GOP caucuses, but given how the press has all but dismissed his candidacy he likely will gain stature as the oldest person (76) ever to be considered for vice president.
For the real winner, my money is on Obama, who won the 2008 Democratic caucuses, and will get boost from the 2012 GOP follies. As for the Iowa GOP and those who say the road to the White House goes through Iowa, they have a lot of repair work to do.