Most pundits have written on how a Mitt Romney victory in Iowa would score him a knockout blow in the Republican presidential primary contest. The basic logic being that Romney has New Hampshire all but locked up, and a victory there and in Iowa would propel him to victories in South Carolina, Florida, and beyond.
A Romney loss in Iowa would give the caucus winner the "conservative" standard bearer badge to Romney's more moderate candidacy.
If current conservative flavor of the month Newt Gingrich won for example, he could easily win South Carolina in his native south. Combine this Gingrich win with the likely Romney win in New Hampshire, and we would be in for an extended nomination process.
Indeed, pretty much of the punditry on the early states revolves around a conservative candidate (whether it be Gingrich, Cain, Perry, etc.) emerging to challenge Romney. The only way Romney can avoid such a scenario is to win Iowa. But a different more interesting solution for Romney may be emerging.
There are signs
(see the great Selzer & Co.'s
Bloomberg poll) in some Iowa polling that Ron Paul is capable of garnering 20% support of Iowa caucus goers. In a field that includes six other viable candidates (Bachmann, Cain, Gingrich, Perry, Romney, and Santorum), 20% could conceivably win the caucus. Check out a possible outcome below.
If Romney were then to win in New Hampshire, the two early contests would be split between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney.
Considering the momentum effect of Iowa and New Hampshire, it would seem likely that conservatives in later states would line up between one of these two candidates. That is, there would be no "traditional conservative" (as described by the mainstream media) to challenge Romney.
While Paul supporters would argue that he is the "true conservative" in the Romney-Paul pair, most Republican primary voters would disagree.
Paul's positions on foreign policy, national security, drugs, and a host of other issues do not line up with what most Republican primary voters believe. Although Mitt Romney does not exactly have a long track record of "true conservative" stances, his current policy positions on most issues are closer to the core of the Republican party.
That is the reason why Romney not only has a higher favorability
among Republicans nationwide, but also has Republicans more enthusiastic
about his candidacy. One would think that the great majority of conservative voters in later states would quickly line up behind Romney as the only viable conservative and propel him to the nomination.
In other words, a Paul victory in Iowa is about as good for Romney as Romney winning the state himself.
Keep in mind that the chances of a Paul victory in Iowa are not great, and I certainly do not expect it. But for a primary season that has had more ups-and-downs than an episode of General Hospital, a Paul victory and its repercussions are something we should all keep in the back of our minds.