Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
In the competitive primaries and caucuses Romney almost never got 50 percent of the vote. It’s also alarming to some that Santorum has not endorsed him and that in addition to Ron Paul, former Speaker Newt Gingrich is also still in the race although he represents a dying star. I think Gingrich will quit after today’s primaries (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, New York, Delaware and Rhode Island) unless he does very well especially Delaware.
And despite his huge lead, Romney is still having problems connecting with his party's right wing: At Liberty University, the largest Evangelical College in the country, students and alumni are Tweeting and Facebooking their opposition to Mitt Romney being the commencement speaker this spring. Some say they attended to a Christian University and don’t want a Mormon sending the graduating class off to its life after college. Several students posted that they had not counted on a politician belonging to a “cult” invited to their institution to do this job.
Tony Perkins, head of the Family Values Coalition and a Liberty graduate, said this week that Romney needs to “reach out” to Evangelicals and talk to them about his faith and values. He seemed to recognize that Romney needs to, as they say, “close the deal” with evangelicals in order to raise enthusiasm for him and bring the party base around strongly behind him.
Let’s do a quick flashback. In Iowa Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses only to lose them to Rick Santorum in the recount. Now pay attention to this. Ron Paul’s supporters are putting up surprising resistance to Romney in state delegate conventions. In Iowa the new Chair of the GOP A.J. Spiker was a Ron Paul activist. The same is true of several of the other delegates. At least half of the eight-member committee elected this past Saturday to nominate Iowa's delegation to the convention supported Paul in the caucuses.
Moreover, six people elected to the 18-member Iowa Republican central committee supported Paul. There have been spirited delegate fights in several states as Ron Paulistas push back against what they see as an effort by non-Paul activists to deprive the Texas Congressman of his rightful proportion of representatives at the national convention in Tampa in August.
Let's also mention the Tea Party movement. In 2012 it seems less mobilized than it was in 2010 when it challenged traditional incumbents, blocked even reasonable compromises in the House of representative, challenged and deeply annoyed Republican Party leaders. Remember that the Tea Party set out to damage the traditional Republican brand and produce “creative destruction.” They clearly accomplished that by herding the GOP to the right into Tea Party territory. In doing so they intimidated “establishment” Republican leaders including such luminaries as John McCain. Now the interesting question is whether Mitt Romney, the least favorite of the Tea Party, will attract them to his bid for President.
These are not trivialities. They are principled and significant indicators of friction and fraction in the GOP. They need to be resolved if the GOP is going to seriously take on Obama.