Iowa Demonstrates Struggles of Conservative Evangelical Voters

January 05, 2012

Ethics Daily ran my latest article today, which is entitled "Iowa Demonstrates Struggles of Conservative Evangelical Voters." It examines the results of the Iowa caucuses and the impact of conservative evangelicals. The article demonstrates the continuing impact of confessional politics and how former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum quickly rose to a virtual tie with Romney (the photo is one I took of Santorum in Iowa in August). It will be particularly important to see what happens when a group of key conservative evangelical leaders meet in Texas next weekend to consider how to unite behind one candidate and defeat Romney. The piece also considers upcoming challenges for conservative evangelicals as they remain divided, which is helping the candidate many of them do not like--former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney--squeak out a victory.

As candidates shift their attention to New Hampshire and South Carolina, here are some thoughts on the top five winners and losers in Iowa:
-Winners: Santorum (who is now a front-tier candidate after months at the bottom of the polls), U.S. Representative Ron Paul (whose close third-place finish shows his growing influence within the Republican Party), Iowa caucuses (due to Santorum's win, it is once again demonstrated why it is important to have a state where candidates can rise to the top based on grassroots outreach rather than merely spending a lot of money), Romney (who rose to the top due to splintering of opponent vote and now primarily faces Santorum--who has less money and national prospects than Texas Governor Rick Perry would have had if Perry had been the top anti-Romney candidate), and attack ads (proving they work as they greatly damaged former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's standing).
-Losers: U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (whose long-shot campaign ended after an embarrassing sixth-place finish), Iowa Straw Poll (which looks even less relevant after its winner, Bachmann, performed so poorly), Perry (who came in a distant fifth and now is limping into South Carolina), Gingrich (who came in fourth place just weeks after leading in the polls and now seems focused on merely attacking Romney rather than winning), and Romney (who was unable to improve over his 2008 showing and demonstrated that he is still unable to break past his 25 percent ceiling).