So what are we to make of the latest stories about the Republican presidential contest showing a surging Gingrich in Iowa and across the country, a slipping Romney, and a not so surprising rise of Ron Paul? Some quick thoughts here.
- Iowa polls show a state up for play. Romney and Perry are dumping millions in to the state in a battle that is less about substance and policy than character. Character looms larger because the real policy differences among the candidates are trivial.
- Bachmann’s Saturday debate line of casting Gingrich and Romney together as “New Romney” was politically brilliant. It turns Gingrich into a moderate and makes her the sole conservative alternative. She will drive this message home for the next few weeks.
- Gingrich is the repentant sinner. What better way to make political advantage out of one’s character flaws by admitting the errors, admitting one’s sins, and asking forgiveness. The repentant sinner plays well with religious conservatives.
- Ron Paul wins Iowa? It can happen. He almost won the straw poll in August and he has a strong dedicated group of followers. He has money and organization. Is he the new flavor of the month emerging? Look to see a potential surprise victory her and if so, look to see him do well in New Hampshire–a state more supportive of his libertarian views. Again do nor rule out a Paul third party bid.
- Huntsman as Gingrich’s VP? Yes, the two person debate demonstrated they can work together. Huntsman is the favorite Republican of Democrats and he appeals to swings. He appeals to westerners and moderate east coast Republicans.
- Romney: I bet you $10,000 that he damaged himself on Saturday and now that he is part of the fray he will get bloodied by the character battles. He needs to change is narrative and fortunes and that is not coming soon.
- Bachmann has a trickle of an opening after Saturday and her 99 county tour of Iowa is meant to whip up political support and recapture lost conservatives. Media profile is good but Iowa is about delivering real bodies on caucus night and get out the vote efforts and ground wars are more important now than airwars.