Eight votes. That was Mitt Romney’s victory margin after all the votes were counted in Iowa last night.
It was the closest finish in the history of the caucuses.
Somewhere in the neighborhood of four million dollars was spent to secure 30,015 votes. On the other hand, Rick Santorum spent about half a million and garnered 30,007 votes, simply by virtue of the fact that his name is not Willard Mitt Romney.
But I’m an empirical kind of gal, so I am more interested in the numbers that we find by unpacking it a little bit.
Romney has been campaigning for the 2012 GOP nomination since February 7, 2008, when he withdrew from the race last time around. Back then he finished in Iowa with 25.2% of the vote in Iowa by securing 30,021 votes.
Yes, you read that right. Four years and four million bucks later, Romney’s caucus support came in 6 votes and .6% less than in 2008 when he finished second to Mike Huckabee.
No matter how much money Romney spends, no matter what Romney does, no matter what Romney says — and he has displayed a willingness to say anything — he can’t get above 25%. Three out of four people simply despise him, and that isn’t going to change.
What this means is that a large field of challengers is beneficial to him, by giving the non-Romney voters more choices. The smaller the field, the more concentrated the votes against him become. And that means that the imminent withdrawals of both Perry and Bachmann are bad news for Mittens.
For months I’ve heard about how motivated the republicans are, how they hate Barack Obama at least as much as I hated George Bush, and I would take Ron Paul’s tack and mind my own business if that sumbitch was on fire in front of me while I was watering my garden. I couldn’t wait to cast votes against him. In 2004, I was standing at the door to vote against him when the polls opened. In 2008, I was one of the first 100 in the door of my precinct on Super Tuesday to cast a Democratic ballot. Wild horses couldn’t have kept me from the polls.
Given the dynamics of the race — the Obama hatred, the fact that the Democratic incumbent has no challenger and so freed up Independents and Democrats to act as spoilers, the motivation of the electorate I’ve been hearing so much about — I really expected that the turnout would exceed that of four years ago by at least five thousand voters, but that didn’t happen. Four year ago, 119,188 Iowans turned out to caucus for the republican candidates; last night 122,138 showed up at republican caucuses. Not too impressive when you stop to consider that 86% of the caucus-goers back then were republicans and this year that dropped to 75% thanks to Independents and Democrats attending republican caucuses. Even a cursory analysis of those numbers puts the lie to the motivated republican electorate.
And then there’s Ron Paul, the real wild-card in the race…
His supporters are zealots, and they won’t be put off or reasoned with. They scored something of a victory for their candidate by sticking around after the voting was done to get themselves appointed as county delegates — the first step to getting sent to the national convention — and the Iowa republican caucuses are non-binding on the delegates. Once they get to the national convention, they can vote for whichever candidate they choose. Couple that with the fact that the rank-and-file Paulbots are vowing to write him in in November, or will follow him if he jumps ship and mounts a third party challenge.
After last night, the republican primary is making me feel like I’m watching a Raiders-Cowboys Super Bowl…since someone has to win, I’m rooting for career-ending injuries.