If, as all signs indicate, Herman (The Herminator) Cain terminates his campaign tomorrow, this is likely more good news for Gingrich. That is because, as I suggested in this earlier post, most of the survey data suggests that a significant plurality of Cain’s supporters will throw their allegiance to the Newtster. Already the Des Moines Register is hyping a poll of likely Iowa caucus voters, to be released tomorrow, that shows Cain’s support dropping into single digits, down from a high of 23% last October and this is before Cain will have announced the end of his campaign. What the news story does not say is whether Newt has continued gaining in Iowa, but I’m guessing that will be the lead when the poll is released. If so, whither Mitt? And will Paul continue to draw his 12%? Stay tuned as I’ll be on with the results as soon as they are posted.
If tomorrow’s Iowa poll does indicate that Newt is widening his lead, it will be fascinating to see how the media spins this. Because so far, the mainstream bloggers and their media counterparts are simply not buying into the Gingrich polling results. The prevailing sentiment is captured in Dana Milbank’s Washington Post column from a couple of weeks ago titled, “Why Gingrich Won’t Last”. (See also Michael Tomasky’s article here.) Since these columns were published, Gingrich has widened his lead in national polls and in Iowa, South Carolina and Florida. And yet today, a poll of the National Journal’s insiders indicates that most them doubt Newt’s staying power. So, for that matter, do you. To date none of the predictions submitted have Newt winning this nomination. Instead, all of you continue to put your money on Romney, despite the fact that he hasn’t broken 25% outside of New Hampshire in this, his second time around the track. (By the way, that leaves the prediction field wide open for those Not-Romney advocates!)
Here’s why I think Newt may actually win Iowa. First, although it is true he doesn’t have much of a ground game there (he only opened his Iowa headquarters on Wednesday, although plans are in the works for an additional 6 offices), he has used his surge in the polls to begin raking in some big money. According to Gingrich aides, his campaign took in the same amount of money this past month as it did in the previous half year, and it has raised $5.5 million so far in this fourth quarter, compared to $2.9 million raised through the end of September. And while it is true that he only has seven staff members in Iowa, Romney has about the same number, although the Mittster has much more money.
And while he hasn’t visited the state as frequently as Bachmann or Santorum, he has been there many more times than Romney. Interestingly, as this map shows, Newt has focused most of his visits in the major media markets, particularly Des Moines, reflecting his emphasis on stretching the dollar by relying on free media as much as possible. (The dots are where he’s visited – bigger dots mean more visits. All data from the Des Moines campaign tracker.)
Now compare that to Santorum’s visits.
And now Bachmann’s.
As you can see, Santorum and to a lesser extent Bachmann have opted for the more traditional meet and greet strategy by criss-crossing the state much more than Gingrich. And that, I think, is going to help Gingrich because both Santorum and Bachmann are vying for the same voters, and thus are likely to split the social conservative vote in contrast to 2008, when it all went to Huckabee. Of course, critics contend that Romney will use his money to flood Iowa with supporters come January who will go door-to-door to bring out the caucus vote. Maybe, but I can’t help remember similar predictions for Howard Dean in 2004 that proved wildly optimistic. He also flooded Iowa with volunteers, and they proved a major problem since many of them didn’t have the foggiest understanding of Iowan’s concerns.
The wildcard here is Paul, who some say has the strongest and most committed ground game in Iowa. The problem for him is that he seems to max out at about 15% of the vote. Let’s say he pulls in 15% and Romney, by dint of his ground game and money, gets 25%. Assuming Santorum and Bachmann split the conservative vote at, say, 8% and 12% respectively, and Perry pulls in 10%, Newt could win this thing with only 30% of the vote. That’s not implausible, particularly if he picks up most of Cain’s backers. (Warning: back of the envelope musings – you shouldn’t wager on these numbers.)
Thirty days and counting. The next two Republican debates may prove crucial. Meanwhile, what of Herman Cain?
He’s paying the ferryman to take him across the river….let’s hope that will ease the pain.
And no, I’m not related….