As the Primary Turns – an Iowa soap opera

Paul Schwietering
In the Republican presidential primary, the latest polls in Iowa show Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum in the lead for the Iowa caucuses.

Newt Gingrich, who was polling as high as 35 percent in some polls in early December, has dropped to 16 percent. Mitt Romney’s Political Action Committee has paid for some negative advertising against Gingrich, while Romney’s campaign committee has produced positive ads for Romney.

Ron Paul has also produced negative ads against Gingrich. Gingrich also failed to get on the ballot in Virginia (he didn’t submit a sufficient number of signatures), a shortcoming which he likened to “Pearl Harbor.”

When Mitt Romney heard of Gingrich’s “Pearl Harbor” reference, Romney remarked that it reminded him more of “Lucy in the chocolate factory.” Gingrich angrily responded that Romney wasn’t “man enough” to take responsibility for the negative ads that the Political Action Committee supporting Romney was broadcasting against Gingrich, and that Romney should tell the PAC to stop the negative ads. Gingrich then challenged Romney to a “one on one” debate.

Romney responded by saying that it was against the law for his campaign to coordinate with the PAC and that if they (Romney’s campaign) did so they would wind up in the “Big House.

Romney continued, stating that if Gingrich “couldn’t stand the heat” from some negative advertising in a Republican primary, then Gingrich was certainly unprepared for the “Hell’s Kitchen” that the “Obama Machine” would produce in the general election.

Romney laughed as he chided Gingrich for becoming angry, saying that the “Lucy” remark was “humor.” Romney said that he and Gingrich had already participated in 12 debates and that two more were already scheduled for January.

He concluded by saying that if the Republican primary reached a point where Gingrich and himself were the last two candidates standing, then they would have a “one on one” debate.

Ron Paul had an impressive surge that seems to have peaked. His surge apparently ended about a week ago, when a controversy erupted about some newsletters sent out over his name. These newsletters were found to contain racially inflammatory remarks.

Ron Paul denies writing the articles in question, and claims that it wasn’t until “about 10 years” after these newsletters were distributed (they were mailed out in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s) that he became aware of the objectionable content.

Rick Santorum seems to be the latest candidate to have a surge in the polls.

Santorum has not raised money as effectively as Romney or Perry, but has visited every county in Iowa and supposedly has held 348 “Town Hall” meetings. Santorum can probably claim the title of “hardest working” candidate. The pundits on the ground in Iowa think that Ron Paul has the strongest organization.

Iowa is not typical of the nation as a whole at this point in time. Farm commodities prices are up, and this has a tremendous effect on Iowa’s economy. The unemployment rate in Iowa is 5.5 percent, and when Iowans are asked in surveys about what issues matter most to them, the economy is a second-tier issue. Nevertheless, whoever wins in Iowa will get the attention and publicity of winning the first contest, and the fund-raising boost that goes with it.

Paul Schwietering is a former Democratic state central committeeman. He lives in Union Township.