Ha ha ha. They say baseball is a funny game. Consider politics. Consider the pundits’ constant efforts to get ahead of the story and how often they outsmart themselves. Consider specifically the latest American Research Group poll of likely Iowa caucus attendees. It has the race:
- Romney: 21
- Bachmann: 15
- Perry: 14.
- Ron Paul: 12.
- Everyone else: Single digits.
Iowa (and let’s pause for a moment to say an extra ha ha for the absurdly huge role that our “system” quadrennially assigns to the Iowa caucuses) was supposed to be Romney’s big problem. He wasted a lot of time, money and prestige campaigning there in 2008, only to lose badly to the Rev. Mike Huckabee. Lesson learned: Iowa is a state for the darlings of the religious right. Not you, Mitt. So Romney settled on a 2012 strategy of basically skipping Iowa and making his big statement in the New Hampshire primary (an extra ha ha ha for the absurdity of the role we assign to that one).
A few months ago, Michele Bachmann (the then-darling of the religious right who put most of her eggs into the Iowa basket and is now being dismissed by the geniuses as a one-state candidate, and maybe not even one state) was clobbering poor Tim Pawlenty so badly in the polls, and then in the colossally important “straw poll” at the Iowa State Fair, that she drove TPaw from the race and was briefly designated as a top-tier candidate by the commentariat.
Then comes Tex. Gov. Rick Perry, the flavor of the month from mid-August to mid-September. He’s the new darling of the religious right and is suddenly shooting past Bachmann in the Iowa polls and past Romney in the national polls until the Tea Partyists start to learn that he’s got some funny ideas about the children of illegal immigrants and border fences and vaccines and a few other things. Oops.
Romney still isn’t exactly sinking roots in Iowa (which, according to legend, is a state where you can’t get no respect unless you go county-by-county, door-to-door) but suddenly the field is full of darlings of the religious right and darlings of the Tea Party and (with poor Tim Pawlenty gone) and no one else other than Jon Huntsman (who is apparently the darling of the news media but no one else and is now on the verge of being excluded from future debates based on his terrible poll numbers) seeking the support of older-fashioned business conservatives, we suddenly find Romney leading a poll in Iowa, although 21 percent, when you think about it, isn’t really all that big a number.
What does this tell us about what will happen next? I’ll tell you when it happens.