Iowa Giveth Lessons. Candidates, are You Learning?

Last night I watched the Caucus results flow in, and caught all the candidates’ addresses to their supporters.   Listening to their speeches and reactions, I was more fascinated with the messages and lessons that the Caucus voters were sending to the candidates and to us.  For what it’s worth, here’s my take:

First, Rick Santorum:  By far, he had the best night.  Was his ‘almost victory’ the result of serendipity that his turn to surge happened at Caucus time?  Or, was his ‘come from behind’ because he connected with the voters?   He had a focused, on-point message centering around the core social values that family and morals are important cornerstones of  America.  But, his smile, a firm handshake, and a genuine conversation with, not to, people, resonated with many Iowa voters.  So is Santorum a one-state wonder, or will he gain just enough traction to become a viable candidate, at least for another state or two.  Lesson:  Sometimes, it’s not what you have to say, but how you say it.

Ron Paul:  Frequently falling in to the category of  “who would vote for this guy”, because of his foreign policy views, the Iowa voters sent a different lesson with Paul, in my opinion.   I watched Paul’s speech last night, and his comment about how American needs a new monetary policy struck me. Earlier in the day, I read an article from the January 2012 issue of Vanity Fair by Nobel economist, Joseph Stiglitz.  He, too, called for a new monetary policy, and described how current Federal Reserve/Govn’t policies are lengthening our economic slump rather than ending it.  But overall, the singular part of Paul’s message that resonated with me last night and probably the Iowans who voted for him?  Lesson:  Individual freedoms, liberty, and our Constitution still matter, and they matter very much.

Mitt Romney:  Over the past several weeks, I’ve watched the reaction of Romney’s campaign to the surges of various Republican contenders.  But what’s most interesting to me, in light of a post I wrote months back as to what it would take to defeat Obama and his Chicago machine, is that Romney and his aides have carefully crafted their own machine.  I’m beginning to see that there’s more street fighter in Romney than I, and many people, initially thought.  He’s focused, learns from his mistakes and has a highly effective ground organization.  The fact that he finished 8 votes ahead of Santorum, with the few number of visits to Iowa, suggests that many Iowans may also be re-evaluating him, despite their various conservative views.  Lesson:  A candidate may not be everything I want, but I can live with him.  Keep our eyes on the prize. 

Newt Gingrich:  I have to admit upfront, I like Newt.  He’s an incredible speaker, and no one has the Congressional/Capitol Hill knowledge that he does.  He also holds his own in the foreign policy arena as well.  But Newt’s biggest problem is himself.  I heard that on or about December 1, when he said he believes he will be the Republican nominee.  Ego.  Hubris.  Icarus and the Sun.  Newt’s had his serving of humble pie in Iowa, and whether he learns from it or it’s ‘scorched earth’ in New Hampshire, I don’t see Newt leaving the race unless his vote tally is a resounding defeat.   Lesson:  There is a God; you are not Him.

Rick Perry:  From the beginning that Rick Perry entered the race, I liked him as a person and his record/accomplishments as Governor.  But the nagging anxiety for me was/is, is his heart in the race?  Is he hungry enough?   I don’t believe the “Oops!” moment was a death knell as some would have it, but when you play on the Presidential stage, you bring your A-game.  His reading last night of a letter from a Texas volunteer, as well as the posting here in Red State from a Tennessean who went to Iowa to work for him speaks volumes of the effect Perry has had on people.  But is his effect that of a regional candidate or national.  Iowa Caucus voters told us what they thought.  Lesson: You’re not in Texas anymore.

Michele Bachmann:  She has suspended her race as of this morning.  As she regroups in her heart and with her family, I’d say to her, it was a good fight and hindsight is extremely valuable.  For me, her support began evaporating with her position on the debt ceiling crisis last year, coupled with several statements that were made without complete fact checking.  For those who remember Margaret Thatcher in her heyday, Michele’s self-comparison was puerile.  Her future is bright, continuing as a Congressman, and perhaps one day Senator, or a return to private life.  Lesson from Iowa:  There is an Iron Lady, you are definitely not her.