With just 32 days to go until the Iowa caucuses, and the polls as topsy-turvy as ever, everyone is waiting to see who gets the most votes. This question, however, leads to yet another one that is truly crucial in Iowa: Who can turn out their voters?
Newt Gingrich has been surging in the polls, but it remains to be seen whether he can leverage this enthusiasm into real on-the-ground support — after all, he only just opened a physical campaign office in Iowa. On the other hand, his supporters boast that they do have an organization, “we’ve just been keeping our noses clean and not wasting money.”
The state is still looking difficult for Mitt Romney — as Polk County (Des Moines) GOP chair Kevin McLaughlin told TPM on Thursday: “I’ve heard supporters say they couldn’t believe he wasn’t here more often, that he wouldn’t respond to requests for appearances, etc. But if he doesn’t show up going forward I think he continues to erode. I don’t know how you get yourself out of that box.”
On the other hand, Iowa conservative activist Steve Scheffler, who heads up the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, is very, very much opposed to Romney, saying that Romney has snubbed social conservatives. (Scheffler’s group, however, will not be endorsing any candidate.) But at the same time, separately he told TPM that Romney has a solid, under-appreciated ground game: “I’ve seen staffers of his all over the state, so I think they’ve got a better operation than is being put over on the press or the people in general.”
“So they’ll turn out their supporters — though their supporters never go beyond 20 percent,” Scheffler added. “By the same token, four years ago Mike Huckabee never had — he had a loyal following, but he never had an extensive organization to crank out the numbers.”
Mike Huckabee won the 2008 Iowa caucuses in an upset, defeating Mitt Romney by a 35%-25% margin — which helped to derail Romney’s momentum going into the New Hampshire primary, which he lost to John McCain.
Meanwhile, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is giving credit to a name that a lot of establishment Republicans would not like to see do well in Iowa: Ron Paul.
“Ron Paul has got probably the best organization and has a very loyal following. He’s got more yard signs and bumper stickers than anybody else,” Branstad said Thursday at the Republican Governors Association, Politico reports. “I don’t think he’ll win, but I think he will get 15 to 18 percent. The person who wins is going to probably get 25 percent plus.”