In the end, Mitt Romney won Iowa by a staggeringly close eight votes and will likely be the GOP presidential nominee. But we already knew that heading into last night. How Romney gets the nomination, and what shape he’s in when he faces off against Barack Obama, will be the real story of the GOP race. Based on his performance last night, Romney’s showing in Iowa doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in his campaign.
Romney has outspent Rick Santorum by a margin of 17-1 so far (not including upwards of $3 million in pro-Romney Super PAC advertising in Iowa) and still only won by eight votes. He won fewer counties last night (17) than he did in 2008 (24), got a slightly lower percentage of the vote (24.55 percent last night vs. 25.19 percent in ’08) and actually lost six votes overall (30,015 last night vs. 30,021 in ’08). Sure, Romney hardly campaigned in the state this cycle, but you’d expect a rich front-runner in a weak field with four years of additional exposure to at least improve upon his showing.
In contrast, 25,000 Iowa Democrats turned out to hear President Obama give a brief address to supporters at last night’s essentially meaningless Democratic caucus. Despite the rapid desire among Republicans to defeat the president, Democratic turnout in 2008 (239,000 voters) was nearly double the GOP turnout last night (122,000). At last night’s caucus, the Obama campaign signed up 7,500 volunteers and will leave behind eight campaign offices in the state as GOP candidates criss-cross the country.
That’s not to suggest that Obama’s re-election efforts will be smooth sailing. But in this crucial swing state, the president has to like his chances.