On Tuesday, Mitt Romney beat Rick Santorum by eight votes in the Iowa caucus (maybe). Nervous Romney supporters, who had seen him down by over a hundred votes at different points in the night, were thrilled. Establishment Republicans were thrilled. And media personalities who’ve hoped Obama can get lucky enough to face Romney, instead of real conservative, were likewise thrilled. But Romney’s camp might want to take a hard and sober look at the cloud that accompanies this silver lining: namely, that Romney has been running for president for 5 years now yet 75% of Iowans still wanted no part of him.
If you think of the way Romney’s been portrayed to us—as the “front runner” and as “the only one who can beat Obama”—it stands to reason that many people thought he’d do much better in Iowa than he did in 2008, when he received the same percentage of votes in the caucuses as he did this last Tuesday. Again, Romney has been at this for 5 years now.
Karl Rove is a Romney man because he’s a Republican Establishment kind of guy. Therefore, he has tried to paint Romney’s victory as an almost unexpected one in order to make it look better than it really was. As he wrote after the votes were tallied: “Not long ago few thought Mitt Romney could win...the very conservative Iowa caucuses.” But the problem is that Romney’s win was expected by many, and conventional wisdom held that it would be by a much larger margin than eight votes. Surprisingly, in the same piece Rove pointed out how Santorum should have been done well in light of the fact that he’d “spent a year making Iowa his second home.” (Again, that’s one fifth of the time Romney has spent pursuing the presidency.)
Besides Rove, media personalities like MSBNB’s Alex Wagner are hoping Romney’s “big win” now squashes Republican attempts to find a conservative candidate to run against Obama. While interviewing former RNC Chair Michael Steele, Wagner began talking about the momentum Romney supposedly got from his Iowa win and Steele asked: “Where is it? Twenty-five percent does not momentum make.” And when Wagner continued, by saying “there is some thinking that, at some point, conservatives have to rally around this guy,” Steele let loose:
Why can't conservatives just make up their own mind? Why do they have to sit and wait for you or me or Karl Rove or anybody to tell them who they should want? We saw in this process that the base of the party said we will do this our way in our time. They're in no rush to do this. They want to vet these guys. There's a serious discussion undergoing in the RNC, in the party right now…about the difference between foundational principles versus Big Government Republicanism.
Steele is exactly right on this one. Romney’s great win simply wasn’t that great. He’s been running for the same office for five years yet he only got one out of every four votes cast in Iowa. Seems to me that Republicans are still looking for their conservative.