The Iowa contest looks to between 2008 runner-up Mitt Romney and libertarian Ron Paul, with a surging Rick Santorum possibly being in play as well.
I made a prediction back on Dec. 6 of what I thought the Iowa caucus would turn out to be:
Paul 25At the time, this was rather bold. Ron Paul had not yet led in any poll and Newt Gingrich was heavily favoured to win both by polls, media, and pundits. I had made the following assumptions:
- Ron Paul's steady climb up the polls in Iowa, heavy advertising and strong organization would pay off;
- Newt Gingrich's lack of money, organization, political consistency and marital fidelity coupled with his history of lobbying would cause him to peak early and fall hard;
- Romney would have a hard time growing his support past 15-20%;
- and that a candidate from the Bachmann/Perry/Santorum crowd would be able to line up much of the social conservative support behind them.
So if this comes to pass, what happens in New Hampshire?
Under my original prediction, it would likely have been a dog fight between Romney and Huntsman for survival.
Perry has no traction in New Hampshire and would have taken his momentum straight to South Carolina (which votes third). While Newt Gingrich, had he stayed atop of the polls, likely could have carried his momentum and won New Hampshire. Santorum falls somewhere in the middle between these extremes.
Santorum is unlikely to win in New Hampshire but as an unknown with momentum running against Mitt Romney (whose support is very soft), Jon Huntsman (who despite going all-in there hasn't be able to break 13% in any poll) and Ron Paul (who is a non-starter for about two-thirds of Republican primary voters) it could be very tempting.
If Santorum does place ahead of Romney in Iowa, he'll have a tough choice: either go to New Hampshire and roll the dice with high upside, or go to South Carolina with a week alone to run hard to build a lead. If Santorum places strongly but behind Romney, then he would be smart to go straight to S.C. and forget N.H.; if he places ahead of Romney the calculus is harder.
Another possible theory might be if the placement in Iowa is Paul-Santorum-Romney, Romney's standing in New Hampshire would likely be considerably reduced. Were Santorum to skip New Hampshire and leave Paul to take advantage of all of the Iowa momentum there, Paul might win New Hampshire as well. That would likely kill Romney leaving Santorum as the last man standing against Paul in South Carolina, which would likely mean an easy win for the former Pennsylvania senator. Though such an iteration might not be so simple; Huntsman could take disaffected Romney voters and place strongly enough in New Hampshire to become a contender and/or a wounded Romney could hang-in for likely wins in February caucus states (+ the Michigan primary where he is a favourite son) with the hopes of a super Tuesday (March 6) rebound.
It will be an interesting few weeks. I'll live blog the Iowa results and fallout on Tuesday and put out a New Hampshire prediction either Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.
As for where to watch, I'll give you three recommendations. If you are looking for a national broadcaster it would be a hard choice between CNN and Fox News. While CNN has a pretty good election team, they've fallen a long way from the days of Judy Woodruff and Bernard Shaw and they no longer have anyone with the presence of Aaron Brown or the charm of Larry King. Fox on the other hand, while a bit tainted with bias, will have the best connected Republican commentators owing to their status as the GOPs network of record. When it comes to New Hampshire, if you can get WMUR, it is a no-brainer (other network affiliates from Boston may work too if you like the local touch).
I'm not going to try something as convoluted as TTTT from 2008, but if you'd like to take a shot at the vote totals for Iowa as I have above, the comments section and bragging rights await!
My final prediction for the record: