Archives: Should Mitt Romney make a move for Iowa?

Originally published in November 2011
Simon Nguyen

Despite not actively campaigning in Iowa, Mitt Romney is finding himself in the mix for a victory in the state. The latest Bloomberg News poll shows Romney in a statistical tie with Herman Cain, Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich in Iowa. This surprise development has left many in the Romney’s camp pondering a possible play for Iowa.

The decision to contest or not to contest in Iowa is a pivotal one for the Romney’s campaign. If the former Massachusetts governor wins Iowa, the Republican nomination is virtually his. He will be able to focus his resources and energy on beating Barack Obama. If he actively campaigns in Iowa but is defeated, all his investments in New Hampshire and other key primary states could go to waste. There are big risks and rewards in whichever strategy he chooses.

As much as Romney wants to quickly wrap up the nomination, memories from his bitter Iowa defeat in 2008 are surely on his mind. Four years ago, Romney invested heavily in the Hawkeye State only to lose by a considerable margin to Mike Huckabee. He went on to lose New Hampshire and the GOP nomination to John McCain, who incidentally skipped Iowa. Surely, Romney would not want history to repeat itself.

There are also financial considerations. The former Massachusetts governor has already spent a big chunk of his campaign resources on New Hampshire. If Romney bets big on Iowa but still loses the state, it will give his campaign serious financial strains. Hillary Clinton faced this situation in 2008 after she expended most of her resources on Super Tuesday only to underperform. She eventually had to lend her campaign big sums of money to keep it going.

The Romney’s campaign should also be wary of Iowa opinion polls. Unlike most U.S. states, Iowa uses the caucus system which values dedication over participation. It takes a dedicated voter to attend time-consuming caucuses in wintry weather just to say “aye” for his or her favorite candidate. There is nothing that indicates Iowan voters are super excited about Romney. Just because the polls show Romney competitive in Iowa does not mean Iowan voters will go through all the troubles to vote for him.

Weighing all the risks and rewards, Romney appears better off skipping Iowa to focus exclusively on New Hampshire.

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