Some observers claim a protracted nomination fight would help energize the Republicans like the epic battle of Barack vs. Hillary energized Democrats four years ago. But both Obama and Clinton were well-known, well-liked candidates among the liberal base, while Romney and Santorum (not to mention the obviously unelectable, 77-year-old Ron Paul) lack that sort of broad following or affection among Republicans. What’s more, if the nomination remained undecided through the California Primary on June 6th, the waste of money (sure to run to hundreds of millions) would drain conservative resources that otherwise could help defeat Obama and Senate Democrats. Fortunately, the intra-party struggle will run out of steam long before a potential Golden State donnybrook, which gives Republicans enhanced opportunities for early unity and focus on the Obamanations of the current administration.
The even better news from a GOP (and American) viewpoint involves the little-noted religious message from the Iowa tally. In a state that’s 60 percent Protestant (with Republican voters estimated as more than 60 percent Protestant Evangelicals) the four NON-Protestant GOP contenders (Mormons Romney and Huntsman; Catholics Santorum and Gingrich) won a combined total of nearly two-thirds of the Republican votes. The two candidates who made the biggest point of stressing their own Evangelical Christian faith (Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann) won a combined total of less than 16 percent—in a state where their fellow Evangelicals famously dominate the GOP. This means that for all the media canards about the alleged narrow-mindedness of Born Again Christians in Iowa and elsewhere, the state’s most fervent believers understand that shared values matter more than common theology. They overwhelmingly voted for upstanding individuals like Santorum and Romney, despite the fact that some of their religious leaders still persist in viewing Catholics and Mormons with generalized suspicion.
Sure, this unheralded open-mindedness represents good news for Mitt and his minions, but it’s also good news for a consistently religious nation that continues to move beyond a sometimes bitter and bigoted past.