It’s barely a blip on the radar. But the first blip can have importance beyond its own merit. Iowa was the center of the political universe for the past few months. They have enjoyed a financial boom from campaign ads, thousands of reporters and even a few political tourists taking advantage of the presence of Republican presidential candidates. After Tuesday, it won’t even be an afterthought.
It’s barely a blip on the radar. But the first blip can have importance beyond its own merit. Iowa was the center of the political universe for the past few months. They have enjoyed a financial boom from campaign ads, thousands of reporters and even a few political tourists taking advantage of the presence of Republican presidential candidates.
After Tuesday, it won’t even be an afterthought.
The candidates move on to New Hampshire where the same scenario will be repeated.
Iowa features caucus voting. New Hampshire is a primary state.
Together they represent about 1 percent of the 2,286 delegates available to would-be presidential candidates.
But their position at the front of the pack allows them to have an unusually large impact on the political landscape. Candidates have to do well in these various styles of voting to prove themselves capable of going deep in the process.
The Iowa caucuses prove the ability to mobilize grassroots voters and overwhelm a process that is designed to show mass appeal.
For instance, Rick Santorum spent time in all 99 counties in Iowa. His campaign was not well-positioned financially, but he still came within 8 votes (30,015 for Mitt Romney to 30,007 for Santorum) of the winner. He spent only $21 per vote.
Romney spent $156 per vote. But for Romney, spending about $4.5 million was a bargain, where Santorum spent just over $600,000 and almost broke the bank.
Ron Paul came in third and Newt Gingrich came in a distant fourth.
Rick Perry came in fifth – a steep drop for the one-time front-runner. He spent more than any other candidate in Iowa but couldn’t overcome a string of gaffes and poor debate performances. There was a third reason but I couldn’t remember what it was. (I’m sorry. I know that joke was too easy. I tried not to type it, but it overwhelmed my ability to self-edit.)
New Hampshire is a more typical primary state where a more conventional election is held with a normal voting booth experience.
Jon Huntsman skipped Iowa completely to focus on New Hampshire because he knew this style suited him better. But it also is a better fit for Romney and Romney won Iowa.
Santorum invested so much in Iowa that a less impressive showing in New Hampshire could actually become a big disappointment now.
Gingrich realizes his campaign took a big hit in Iowa. He is ready to hit back. Gingrich has pledged to attack Romney with his own record – which Gingrich says proves Romney is no conservative.
Michele Bachmann has suspended her campaign, and Perry is taking a close look at his campaign after Iowa. If they both drop out before New Hampshire, their supporters are far more likely to move to Santorum than Romney.
But Romney’s win – albeit a in a close race – was a good result for him and could lead to more momentum as the candidate who seems to have the best chance against President Barack Obama later this year.
The candidates win very few tangible assets for their trouble. Romney and Santorum won 11 delegates each Tuesday night and Ron Paul received 3.
But the momentum that is developed in these two states can be priceless.
Kent Bush is publisher of the Augusta (Kan.) Gazette.