Romney poised to fail in Iowa no matter what the outcome (iii)—Romney’s massive spending using his own money has denied Romney the perception of a clean win on fair and equal terms
“Or, to put it another way, does he now have to win Iowa to get any kind of significant shot at the nomination?”—writes someone in a Crossed Pond post titled Has the Expectations Game Turned on Huckabee?
Reverse: does Iowa mean anything to Romney if all he has to do is not lose it?
Double-reverse: should any of the candidates besides Romney and Huckabee give a crap about Iowa?
Steven Stark at RCP has some intriguing analysis that I, for one, agree with. It’s starting to seem like the only possible winner out of Iowa, in the momentum sense, is Huckabee. But now that it IS starting to seem like that, is second place going to be enough? … etc.
The estimable Rojas condescends to issue this rejoinder:
Whether second place is enough depends how strong a second place it is.
First place, of course, eliminates Romney entirely, and makes Huckabee the de facto conservative in the race. A very strong second (within five points) cripples Romney and more or less forces him to win NH to remain viable…with, again, Huckabee as the main benificiary if he doesn’t.
A middling second-place finish (five to ten back) probably retains Huckabee’s position as a viable challenger to Romney’s position on the right. Less than that and Stark’s analysis starts becoming important.
The bottom line is that if the caucus goes off and Huckabee stays where he is in the current polls, it won’t be enough. Huckabee still has work to do. My belief in Huckabee (as a gambler) is based on my feeling that he has the skills to accomplish that work … etc.
Note the gleefully speculative casuistry of the two interlocutors. (For our part we appreciate the Crossed Pond writer’s method of reverses and double-reverses of governing assumptions.)
What interests us is this: the casuistry itself indicates that Romney has denied himself an unequivocal victory in advance, regardless of outcome and not despite, but rather because of, the upwards of US$20,000,000.00 that he has squandered on his vanity, and at the expense of his beloved sons.
Note to the Romneys: a high-burn rate in advance of profitability is expected for an entrepreneur or entrepreneurial enterprise. But political campaigning is not like commercial or financial enterprise—however much you may wish it were otherwise, the process is governed by other norms, other values. By massively out-spending your rivals with your own money, Mr. Romney, you have denied yourself the perception of a clean win on fair or equal terms in any of the early state primaries.