the Morning Briefing every morning at no charge.
Objectively on the ground here, it is doggone cold. Also, it seems the Santorum surge has ended, or at least stalled. On CNN last night, Mary Matalin noted that a number of people unconnected to campaigns say the surge is stalled out.
The caucuses will be tonight. For years the media has treated Iowa as the Super Bowl, but this year, with proportional delegates, it really is more the pre-season. This could go on a while. My guess is that Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are first and second. Rick Santorum or Rick Perry will probably be third. Santorum because of his late surge. Perry because of organization.
If Iowans want to see the second coming of John McCain, they’ll support Rick Santorum like they supported Huckabee and we’ll get a moderate named Romney who won’t really fight in the general election.
As Dan McLaughlin notes in the top post this morning, if Iowans hand third place to Rick Perry, they’ve not only given him a guaranteed life line (one he’d probably get in fourth place too), but they have also ensured he will be the GOP nominee.
I’ll be bringing you updates throughout the day from the ground in Des Moines, IA both here and on radio from 9am to 1:00 p.m. ET. You can listen here. Tonight, I’ll be on CNN starting at 6pm ET.
Let the games begin.
There are 2,286 delegates awarded in the GOP primaries and caucuses; the nomination thus requires wrapping up 1,143 delegates. Between them, Iowa and New Hampshire award 10 delegates; South Carolina and Florida, the other two states voting later this month, award 75. By contrast, three states (California, Texas and New York) award a combined 422 delegates, more than a third of the total needed to win. So, the race is far from over after New Hampshire, and as long as there is credible opposition, it can go on for quite a while after South Carolina and Florida as well.
That said, the early states are traditionally a test of strength that helps winnow the field to the more serious contenders, especially those with the fundraising ability and appeal beyond a narrow niche to make a serious effort to win the nomination. But three of the seven candidates now in the race are pretty much guaranteed to go beyond Iowa. First, Mitt Romney: Romney would like to win Iowa, and could be embarrassed if he finishes third (lower is very unlikely), but no matter what happens, Romney’s money, his appeal to the moderate wing of the party, and his establishment support will carry him to New Hampshire, where he is heavily favored to win easily. Second, Ron Paul: Paul could do well in Iowa as a protest vote if there are a lot of independents and Democrats re-registering tomorrow on caucus day, but his hard core of support and idosyncratic appeal guarantee that he will be in the race as long as there’s a race, regardless of how he does in any contest, yet with no chance of ever winning. And third, Jon Huntsman: Huntsman has placed all his chips on New Hampshire and already plans on finishing a distant seventh in Iowa. The only effect Iowa has on Huntsman is indirect: if Romney looks weak coming out of Iowa, Huntsman can ratchet up his efforts to convince New Hampshire moderates that Romney is fatally flawed.
Where Iowa could matter a lot, however, is in sorting out the four candidates running as the field’s conservatives: Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann. (Let’s leave aside for the moment the arguments over who can claim the term “conservative”; clearly this is the role in the field all four are pursuing). They represent a caucus-within-a-caucus, and even though they are likely to be separated 1-4 by a relatively small number of votes, their order of finish could have an outsized impact on the race, eliminating anywhere from 1-3 of them from the field.
Let me go out on a limb: if Perry finishes third in Iowa, he’ll be the nominee. He’s the guy best suited by money, organization and resume to capitalize on a strong Iowa showing, which is why Romney’s media allies have been talking up Santorum’s momentum instead.
As the clock struck 12 am January 1, one of the most anti free market government interventions expired without renewal and without fanfare. In honor of the Iowa Caucuses, we can now declare that the ethanol subsidies and tariffs are finally dead. However, before we celebrate this rare piece of good news, we must remember that in order to deracinate the ethanol beast from our midst, we must destroy its third leg; the 10% blenders mandate.
Over the past decade, ethanol has been the poster child for the worst aspects of big-government crony capitalism. The ethanol industry has used the fist of government to mandate that fuel blenders use their product, to subsidize their production with refundable tax credits, and to impose tariffs on more efficient sugar-based ethanol from Brazil.
Haim Saban is an Egyptian born Israeli-American and Chairman of Univision, the Hispanic television station. For the past several months, Univision has tried to get Marco Rubio to come on Univision for an interview and offered to kill or run a negative story on Marco Rubio’s brother-in-law depending on what Rubio did.
Senator Rubio would not be bought and Univision ran the story on his brother-in-law. Subsequently, all of the Republican candidates refused to participate in a debate on Univision, opting instead for a debate with Univision’s competitor Telemundo.
The New Yorker has a big story on what Univision did or did not do to Marco Rubio. It’s fully pro-Univision spin. The Miami Herald has reviewed it. About all you need to know is that Haim Saban, Chairman of Univision, claims that Marco Rubio is “anti-Hispanic.”
The New Yorker piece is written by liberal writer Ken Auletta who once claimed that Rubert Murdoch imposes his political preferences on Fox News and other Newscorp holdings, but for some reason can’t seem to believe Haim Saban, who has a long history of supporting left-leaning causes, would do the same.
And we know what agenda Haim Saban wants to push.