Is Romney Losing the Iowa Expectations Game?

Posted: Oct 23, 2007 5:26 PM

Like a kid who always does his homework and always raises his hand in class, Mitt Romney's ambition and organization have both an upside and a downside. 

At least that's what I gleaned from my conversation today with Ed Failor, a top Iowa Republican activist.

Failor believes that when the post-Iowa stories are written, reporters and pundits will take into consideration the massive amount of money Romney has spent in building an organization that -- for the first time ever -- goes all the way down to the county level.

“If he is the Republican nominee, I support Mitt Romney.  But I just think he is the guy most at risk to take the biggest hit on Prom night, because he has spent so much more money than everyone else," says Failor.

Failor also believes people could be surprised by Mike Huckabee -- or possibly even Rudy Giuliani.

But even if one of these men comes in second to Mitt Romney, the expectations are now set that Romney has spent so much time and energy in Iowa that the candidate who finishes in second-place should still be far behind Romney.  In short, it's not enough for Romney to win; he has to devastate his opponents.  That's setting the bar pretty high.

The theory is that by working so hard in Iowa, Romney may have inadvertently created a situation in which there is little upside to winning, and where finishing second would be devastating.

Let's suppose Mike Huckabee, for example, finishes close behind Romney, in second place, while spending a fraction of the money.  Huckabee's team might then spin the results and argue they actually won Iowa.  Of course, if this were effective, it might also diminish the bump Romney would receive coming out of the state ...

Using a sports analogy, Failor tells me:  

“Due to the amount of money Romney has spent, he’s sort of Muhammad Ali and the rest of them are Jerry Quarry -- and if Quarry lasts all 15 rounds, Ali’s not the champ.”

Is there such a thing as working too hard?  Maybe.  By raising expectations, Mitt Romney may have created an atmosphere in which a mere win may not be satisfying...

Update: I've received some emails asking about Ed Failor.  He is the Executive Vice President for a conservative group called Iowans for Tax Relief.  Previously, he served as an advisor to the McCain campaign, but left the campaign this summer.