Statistics from the recent Iowa GOP caucus revealed Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum to be in the lead, with a disparity of a mere eight votes separating the first and second place candidates. But statistics are but numbers and do not reveal the true victor of the GOP contenders’ cage-fight debates. The true GOP victor is not the newly ‘reborn’ Rick Santorum; it is not former President Bill Clinton’s congressional adversary, Newt Gingrich; it is not the neo-John Winthrop of contemporary Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, either.
The true victor? Obama. Indeed, the view from the White House looks electorally fortuitous. Despite a low approval rating surfing around 42% (Gallup.com), Obama may have the upper-hand in the 2012 presidential elections as the beneficiary of a split right-wing vote. Two decades ago, when the senior George W. Bush attempted his reelection as president, Ross Perot’s conservative independent candidacy divided the right-wing vote, subsequently allowing Democratic Bill Clinton to break the successful conservative legacy created by Ronald Reagan. Even with talks of the hitherto declining and ‘forgetful’ Rick Perry running as an independent candidate, proclaiming a literally divided vote as in 1992 seems far-stretched. More likely, however, may be an out-of-touch, overly radical Republican candidate as a whole.
But how? For one, many analysts and individuals like to focus in on the main ‘anchors’ of the GOP presidential contenders, namely Mitt Romney, Ron Paul, and Newt Gingrich – the already well established and usually well (poll-wise) performing candidates. But the Iowa caucus has proven one significant plus for Obama: the GOP’s nomination is still up for grabs, an impetus for further competition. Rick Santorum was relatively a nobody, trailing behind the main anchors of the GOP with poll ratings not even in the double digits. For him to come second, and by a paltry eight votes too, shows that even for the underdogs, the coveted Republican nomination is up for grabs; the ‘anchors’ of the GOP may not individually hold the political muscle they are thought to have.
Thus far, the competition has unleashed devastating effects for many of the candidates, and as one candidate after another gets slammed, the others recoup to reclaim their shot. Newt Gingrich’s brief rise was followed by negative ad campaigns and questioning over past consulting work. Herman Cain’s lead over even Romney was followed by a crippling affair scandal (although Cain has since then suspended his bid). With each case, former supporters of one candidate swing over with little hesitation, rousing up competitors’ optimism. This newfound determination and hope adds fire to an already hot GOP contest. Santorum’s near-victory in Iowa surged nearly two million dollars in fundraising in two days (CNN.com), indicating that there is newfound trust and belief behind the neophyte senator.
Ultimately, no matter how much rhetoric comes to pass in support of Santorum, his bid is still up in the air; the Republican Party has tended to favor its more experienced comrades in the past, and Santorum’s two million dollars is petty-change compared to Romney’s $32.2 million (ABCnews.go). But Santorum’s new stardom will bring about even more negative inter-GOP rhetoric for the nomination, it will bring out or create more scandals, and, more importantly on the long run, it will push the candidates further right to woo their party for the nomination.
On the faithful day when the smoke clears for a clear GOP presidential candidate, it may be too late to for the Republicans to center up and get the American people’s moderate vote.
Indeed, score one, Obama.