Mitt Romney squeezed by Rick Santorum to become the winner of the Iowa caucuses by just eight votes. Romney’s inability to score a resounding victory reveals the persistent divide within the Republican Party. Santorum has emerged as the conservative contender of the moment, and Romney continues to be the frontrunner people may settle for but no one really loves.
Ron Paul won a sizeable chunk of voters: 21.4 percent to Romney’s 24.6 percent and Santorum’s 24.5 percent. Paul’s Libertarian views appealed to the far-right, and he could probably win a few of other conservative states, but at the end of the day, he would have a tough time carrying the nation.
The same is true for Santorum, but voters looking for a leader with a stronger conservative spine than Romney have given him his moment in the sun.
While environmental issues did not figure prominently in the Iowa race, Santorum is using his media spotlight to attack attack the Environmental Protection Agency’s new standards to reduce mercury and other dangerous pollution from power plants. Mercury is a neurotoxin that damages the developing brains of children and fetuses, causing developing delays and lowering IQ.
Santorum positions himself as a champion of families and the unborn, but his opposition to mercury limits shows he is more pro-polluter than pro-healthy-life. He tied to bash the science behind the new standards, but I have to wonder when he had time to read the EPA’s 510-page analysis of the rule—on the campaign bus?
Thanks to his showing in Iowa, Santorum has lived to fight another day. He can join other GOP candidates in putting polluters’ interests above the health of ordinary Americans.
When the caucuses began on Tuesday, every candidate but Romney was on life support. Now we know who will stay plugged into donors, party backing, and media attention and who will be taken off the breathing machines.
Conventional wisdom says there are only three tickets out of Iowa; candidates who finish fourth or below tend to park their campaign buses for good. By early Wednesday morning, Rick Perry said he was returning home to Texas instead of traveling on to South Carolina. Later the same day, Michele Bachmann, who received just 5 percent of the votes in Iowa, announced that she was parking her Presidential bus.
Jon Huntsman—the only candidate in the race who still acknowledges the threat of climate change—came in dead last. He hasn’t given up the primary, however, since he made an early choice not to campaign in Iowa but to focus on more moderate New Hampshire votes instead.
Newt Gingrich came in fourth place, with 13.3 percent of votes. Typically that would put him below the bar for fund raisers, but Gingrich doesn’t seem to depend on money. He managed to become a contender based on earned media alone thanks to his loud voice and outsized opinions. He will no doubt continue making appearances on major outlets for weeks to come – possibly making himself a spoiler to Romney since the only think Gingrich seems to want more then being President is defeating Romney.
But for not the focus shifts to New Hampshire, which has become Romney’s race to lose.