A couple of days ago I posted an analysis of the last Iowa polling results that showed the race there tightening. In the process of analyzing the crosstabs of one of these latest polls (something I know you’ve come to expect here) I uncovered an interesting result: PPP had included a question gauging candidate support by whether one favored Tim Tebow or not. This struck me as both an odd question to ask, but also a gauge of just how big a news story, and a potentially polarizing figure Tebow had become. For those of you not yet acquainted with Tebow-mania, he’s the quarterback who has led the Denver Broncos to a series of rather improbable victories during the last six games, despite the fact that the football moves through the air like a drunken cormorant when Tebow throws it. He has led his team to victory, moreover – and perhaps not coincidentally? – while being rather open about his strong Christian beliefs and lifestyle, going so far as to acknowledge that he’s “saving himself” for marriage. Between the miraculous victories and openly religious beliefs, Tebow has become something of a controversial figure, which I guess explains why PPP decided to include him in a political survey. Somewhat tongue in cheek (who, moi?) I noted that the survey indicated that among those who disliked Tebow, Ron Paul was favored by 38%, easily leading all other candidates. No one else even broke double figures. However, among those who looked favorably upon Tebow, Newt Gingrich topped the polls with 29%. I suppose the explanation is that Tebow’s detractors are more likely to be the libertarians and moderate Democrats who are uncomfortable with overt displays of religiosity, and of mixing God and state…er….football. Tebow supporters, in contrast, are more likely be social conservatives who, so far, prefer Gingrich.
Whatever the explanation, the post did attract more than a bit of attention in the blogosphere , but I’m not going pretend to take credit (or blame!) for what happened at last night’s debate. In all likelihood, Perry’s campaign staff saw the same favorability numbers toward Tebow among Iowans that I did and decided to wrap themselves in Tebo-mania. Here’s the relevant survey question from the PPP poll:
Q30 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Tim Tebow?
If favorable, press 1.
If unfavorable, press 2.
If you’re not sure, press 3.
(Asked only of 171 respondents)
Unfavorable ……………………………………………. 13%
Not Sure…………………………………………………. 40%
You saw what happened next. When Rick Perry was asked in last night’s debate if, given his uneven debating performances to date, he could do well in this format one-on-one with President Obama, Perry decided to try to create his own come-from-behind victory, proclaiming that, “I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa caucuses”. Let’s roll the video:
Hey, no one thought Tebow could start in the NFL either. Truth be told, while many pundits wrote Perry off after his initial disastrous debate performances, he has bounced back both on stage – last night’s debate performance was his second strong one in a row – and in the polls. As this RealClear composite polling graph shows, Perry (in blue) is beginning a (so far) modest climb in the Iowa polls.
I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: given his record and funding, Perry is not out of this race by any means. Even a fourth place finish in Iowa may position him to “solve” the coordination problem raised by my colleague Bert Johnson regarding which candidate the social conservatives will eventually settle upon. If Perry is that man, he potentially becomes the leading anti-Whoever is Leading candidate. Know this – he is ramping up his media presence in Iowa, and except for a three-day holiday break , he has promised to plant himself in Iowa from now through caucus day. And when it comes to winning a caucus, it’s better to finish strong than to start strong.
And what of Tebow? He has a more difficult task ahead than winning the Iowa caucus: he needs to beat Tom Brady –arguably the greatest quarterback since Joe Montana – and the Patriots this Sunday. That will take a true miracle.
Which leads to the question: why wouldn’t someone want to be the next Tom Brady of the Iowa caucuses?
Oh, that’s Ms. Tom Brady getting…er….sacked.