First, Second, Third (Or Not), And Outta Here
Bold! Bold! Governor Terry Branstad (sarcasm alert) goes out on the limb with his prediction of the outcome of tonight's Iowa caucuses. The GOP chief executive, emboldened by polls showing Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Ron Paul in a virtual dead-heat, has predicted that either Romney or Santorum will come in first but "you can't rule out Congressman Ron Paul."
He can't, but this blogger, who expected a Romney v. Clinton race last time around, will.
Paul has some money and a strong organization. But his advantage in possessing rabidly enthusiastic supporters will be somewhat limited in the face of the fairly unusual January weather expected as the curtain rises at 7:00 p.m.(central time) in the overrated caucuses. Further, in a survey conducted Tuesday through Friday of last week, fully 41% of likely participants said they still might change their minds. They may vote for the surging Santorum, eventual nominee Romney, or even Winnie the Pooh (not permitted, actually) but they are not going to vote for Ron Paul, the second choice of virtually no Republican voter anywhere in the world.
If weather.com proves accurate, temperatures in the ten largest municipalities in Iowa will range from a low of 27 degrees in the eastern city of Davenport (population 99,685) and the northeastern city of Dubuque (population 57,637) to a high of 38 degrees in the western city of Council Bluffs. While the average monthly temperature in January in Des Moines, capital of Iowa and its largest municipality, is 20.4 degrees, it is expected to be 35 degrees at 7:00 p.m. tonight. No precipitation of any sort is expected in the ten locations and wind, projected to be high during the day, is expected to subside by evening.
This unseasonably good weather in all likelihood will benefit Mitt Romney, who is particularly popular among the elderly. It will disproportionately harm Ron Paul, a hero among many college students, who are attracted by his isolationist tendencies and opposition to the federal drug law and are less put off by the ludicrousness of Paul's libertarianism of convenience. They would have been the most likely to show up in any kind of weather.
Santorum, who clearly has momentum, should be slightly benefited by the good weather, given that it will enhance turnout with some individuals lured by the idea of going with the hot hand (sports metaphor). In a poll recently (apparently in the past week, but difficult to determine exactly when) conducted by CNN of what it describes as 64 "business and conservative interest group leaders, veterans of previous caucus campaigns, and a variety of other party activists," 40 predicted a victory by Romney- and none by Santorum. Further, Romney has expressed confidence in winning, magnifying the risk in even a close second place finish.
As someone who thought the St. Louis Cardinals would have a down year in 2011, I believe Rick Santorum will come in a very strong second to Mitt Romney tonight, with Ron Paul a relatively distant third. And in a blow to political entertainment, say goodbye to Michelle Bachmann, who will hold off on making an endorsement.