Scripting the caucus

The storyline shifts again to make the show more entertaining:

According to the latest survey from Public Policy Polling, it looks like a statistical dead heat between Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum for the top slot in the state.

With a margin of error of plus or minus 2.7 percentage points, Romney leads with 19 percent, followed by Paul with 18 percent and Santorum with 17 percent. As with the Des Moines Register poll unveiled Saturday night, Santorum appears to have the most momentum of all of the candidates, with an eight point surge from last week. Santorum also has the highest favorability rating of all the candidates—60 percent—which could give him an edge with the 41 percent of Iowa caucus voters who say they have not yet made up their minds.

Now, here in Illinois we don’t see the TV ads that Iowa voters have been absorbing over the last couple of weeks, but nothing short of divine intervention accounts for Rick “I Will Bomb Iran” Santorum suddenly emerging as a factor in this race. He displays little charisma in his televised appearances and his foreign policy positions should scare anyone who thinks.

(Sidebar: I don’t discount divine intervention as a possibility, I just don’t see any evidence of it. And I’m aware that there is a faction in Iran that wants to wipe Israel, the United States, and the rest of the West off the map. After ten years of budget-breaking war in Asia, however, I’d like someone a little less eager to commit our military to yet another war.)

This is a script written to keep conservative voters interested in a process that’s leading to a predetermined result. Just as front-runner Howard Dean inexplicably lost favor with Democrats after his Iowa Moment in 2004, Santorum’s run as the Not-Romney Flavor of the Month will end, maybe soon, and he’ll drop back to the pack with Paul and Gingrich. Come November, Mitt Romney will remain as the Lesser Evil to Barack Obama.

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