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Topic: Bachmann

Goodbye Michele Bachmann

The first result that appears to have been decided in the Iowa caucus is that Michele Bachmann has finished sixth with only Jon Huntsman (who didn’t compete in the state) behind her. That Bachmann should have fallen so far so quickly says a lot about what a tough game presidential politics can be. Only five months ago, most pundits assumed Bachmann would be the leader in Iowa. Her victory in the Ames Straw Poll in August was purely symbolic, but at the time, she looked to have the social conservative and Tea Party vote in her pocket. But she never recovered from the entrance of Rick Perry on that very same day, and a few goofy comments about Texas vaccinations later, she was sent back to the second tier.

Bachmann’s demise shows that although the primary/caucus system can seem like a circus, it does perform a vital service in the way it vets candidates and rejects those who are unworthy of national attention. Bachmann is a passionate ideologue, but she never made a case for herself as a potential president. In the end, even those who shared her strong beliefs saw her as not at the same level as a more experienced Rick Santorum or even Rick Perry. Bachmann claims to be willing to go on and fight it out in other states, but she is kidding herself if she doesn’t realize her quest is finished.

The first result that appears to have been decided in the Iowa caucus is that Michele Bachmann has finished sixth with only Jon Huntsman (who didn’t compete in the state) behind her. That Bachmann should have fallen so far so quickly says a lot about what a tough game presidential politics can be. Only five months ago, most pundits assumed Bachmann would be the leader in Iowa. Her victory in the Ames Straw Poll in August was purely symbolic, but at the time, she looked to have the social conservative and Tea Party vote in her pocket. But she never recovered from the entrance of Rick Perry on that very same day, and a few goofy comments about Texas vaccinations later, she was sent back to the second tier.

Bachmann’s demise shows that although the primary/caucus system can seem like a circus, it does perform a vital service in the way it vets candidates and rejects those who are unworthy of national attention. Bachmann is a passionate ideologue, but she never made a case for herself as a potential president. In the end, even those who shared her strong beliefs saw her as not at the same level as a more experienced Rick Santorum or even Rick Perry. Bachmann claims to be willing to go on and fight it out in other states, but she is kidding herself if she doesn’t realize her quest is finished.

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Winnowing the GOP Field

With just one day to go before the Iowa Republican caucus, the latest polls have led most observers to expect that there will be two big winners: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. But even if that turns out to be true, the big question that needs to be answered Tuesday night is whether or not Iowa will start the process of winnowing the GOP field.

It is on that uncertainty the fate of the leaders may hinge. If we assume Santorum does finish strong or even win the caucus outright by, in effect, winning the mini-primary of evangelical and social conservative voters over rivals Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, his ability to mount an effective challenge to Romney will in no small measure depend on the willingness of those two to hang on in the race. Romney has benefited from the inability of conservatives to conclusively settle on a single “not Romney” candidate and looks to be in a strong position to cruise to the nomination no matter what the others do. If Bachmann and/or Perry were to quickly exit after poor showings, it might give Santorum a far better chance to give Romney a run for his money.

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With just one day to go before the Iowa Republican caucus, the latest polls have led most observers to expect that there will be two big winners: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. But even if that turns out to be true, the big question that needs to be answered Tuesday night is whether or not Iowa will start the process of winnowing the GOP field.

It is on that uncertainty the fate of the leaders may hinge. If we assume Santorum does finish strong or even win the caucus outright by, in effect, winning the mini-primary of evangelical and social conservative voters over rivals Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, his ability to mount an effective challenge to Romney will in no small measure depend on the willingness of those two to hang on in the race. Romney has benefited from the inability of conservatives to conclusively settle on a single “not Romney” candidate and looks to be in a strong position to cruise to the nomination no matter what the others do. If Bachmann and/or Perry were to quickly exit after poor showings, it might give Santorum a far better chance to give Romney a run for his money.

If we are to assume that Santorum emerges from Iowa as the strongest conservative in the race, that ought to put him into position to take advantage of Romney’s weakness and to start chipping away at his lead in the other early primaries before mounting an all-out push on Super Tuesday and the later states. But Santorum, who up until just a couple of weeks ago was at the bottom of the heap, has little money on hand and only a rudimentary campaign organization outside of Iowa, where he concentrated all of his efforts.

A win in Iowa or even a top-three finish will enable Santorum to proclaim himself as the true conservative alternative to Romney, especially if, as expected, Newt Gingrich sinks to fourth or worse. But the only way for Santorum to take advantage of his well-timed late surge is for the other conservatives in the race to drop out.

So long as Perry and even Bachmann stay in to crowd the field, it will be impossible for Santorum to get the traction he needs to mount a credible challenge to the frontrunner.

If Santorum does well tomorrow night and especially if he somehow manages to ride his late momentum to an upset win, his money problems will be lessened if not completely solved. But Santorum’s ability to put himself forward as a potential nominee will be severely undermined if he is still struggling to compete for the social conservative vote against Perry, Bachmann or even Gingrich. The longer the second tier candidates stay in the better it will be for Romney.

On that score, there seems little reason for Santorum to be encouraged. Though her candidacy and campaign appears to have crashed in the one state where she had a fighting chance, Bachmann is talking as if she’s in denial about her dismal prospects and may wait to drop out. Perry has more than enough cash to continue and may think he will do better in southern states. He may decide to stick around until Super Tuesday in March, complicating a Santorum push to consolidate conservative support. As for Gingrich, even though his hopes appear to be as dismal as those of Bachmann and Perry, we must assume that if he didn’t drop out last summer, he won’t quit now, especially if he can continue to participate in debates.

In Santorum’s favor is the fact that the proportional vote rules will make it difficult, if not impossible, for one candidate to score an early knockout. That’s exactly what Romney will be aiming at if he can squeak out a win in Iowa that would almost certainly be followed by an expected easy victory in New Hampshire. The primary/caucus schedule was created in order to foster a long, drawn-out race, and that will be Santorum’s goal. But the longer it takes for Santorum to consolidate conservative support, the easier it will be for Romney to stay ahead of him.

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Santorum’s Moment Finally Arrives

Two months ago, just as Herman Cain’s campaign was about to start to unravel, I wrote that perhaps it was Rick Santorum’s turn for a surge. I was, of course, wrong. It was Newt Gingrich’s turn back at the end of October and the beginning of November to take off and to be, at least for a few weeks, something of a frontrunner. But with only days to go before voters in Iowa cast the first actual votes of the caucus/primary season, it looks like Santorum’s moment has arrived. A CNN/Time/ORC poll released on Wednesday shows Santorum surging ahead of his competitors for the social conservative vote into third place among likely caucus goers with 16 percent.

Santorum’s timing is impeccable. With Gingrich collapsing (the poll shows him fading to fourth place with only 14 percent, which is down from 33 percent less than a month ago) and Michele Bachmann’s campaign in chaos as her Iowa chairman defected to Ron Paul yesterday, the former Pennsylvania senator looks to be in excellent shape to win what he called the “conservative primary” over Bachmann and Rick Perry.

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Two months ago, just as Herman Cain’s campaign was about to start to unravel, I wrote that perhaps it was Rick Santorum’s turn for a surge. I was, of course, wrong. It was Newt Gingrich’s turn back at the end of October and the beginning of November to take off and to be, at least for a few weeks, something of a frontrunner. But with only days to go before voters in Iowa cast the first actual votes of the caucus/primary season, it looks like Santorum’s moment has arrived. A CNN/Time/ORC poll released on Wednesday shows Santorum surging ahead of his competitors for the social conservative vote into third place among likely caucus goers with 16 percent.

Santorum’s timing is impeccable. With Gingrich collapsing (the poll shows him fading to fourth place with only 14 percent, which is down from 33 percent less than a month ago) and Michele Bachmann’s campaign in chaos as her Iowa chairman defected to Ron Paul yesterday, the former Pennsylvania senator looks to be in excellent shape to win what he called the “conservative primary” over Bachmann and Rick Perry.

Though it is probably a reach to think Santorum could overtake Mitt Romney, who finds himself in first with 25 percent, it is not out of the question in such a volatile environment. Just as possible is for him to leap over Paul, who is currently in second with 22 percent.

While the long term impact of a result next Tuesday that would mirror these poll numbers would probably mean Romney was the inevitable nominee, just by getting himself into third, Santorum ensures his campaign will not end on Jan. 4. Having concentrated all of his meager resources on Iowa, it’s not clear what his next step will be other than that he will have one.

The same can’t be said for Bachmann, who has also gone all in on Iowa. She was already slipping even further back in the polls before this latest setback, but this stab in the back from Kent Sorenson, her state chairman, must be considered the coup de grace for her hopes of getting back into the race. While Rick Perry’s deep pockets will enable him to keep at it for at least a few more weeks even if he has little chance, Bachmann is toast.

An Iowa result that left Romney on top, Paul with considerable support and Santorum as top social conservative left with a chance would set up an interesting three-way battle as the race progresses to Super Tuesday and the later primaries. As was the case in 2008, Paul will not go away. Indeed, despite his extremism and the fact that he has no chance to be the nominee, he will again hang around for as long as he wants even if his chances of winning a primary after Iowa are slim.

As for Santorum, he can put himself in position to be the Mike Huckabee of 2012, giving social conservatives and Tea Partiers a more responsible protest vote against the inevitability of Romney than Paul would provide. The proportional delegate vote in most states is set up to avoid an early sweep for the frontrunner, so there will be no reason for him to drop out, especially since a good showing in Iowa will help him raise money. It probably won’t be enough to stop Romney in the end, but it will give him hope and help keep the race interesting.

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The Iowa Evangelical Primary

Many Republicans have spent the last several months grousing that they don’t like the choices available to them in their party’s presidential contest. But if the polls are correct, it may be that one core GOP constituency has a completely different problem: they have too many appealing choices.

The ability of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to stay in the race though all are trailing badly in both polls of likely Iowa caucus-goers and national surveys is that each has managed to hold onto a loyal cadre of social conservatives. They are very different in their backgrounds, personalities and governing styles. But they share a devotion to social issues such as opposition to abortion, and the success of their candidacies depend on their ability to capture the lion’s share of the evangelical voters who propelled Mike Huckabee to an upset win in Iowa four years ago. They also share a problem: with all three hanging on, it is becoming increasingly apparent they will cancel each other out and ensure the victory of a Republican who doesn’t share their social passions.

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Many Republicans have spent the last several months grousing that they don’t like the choices available to them in their party’s presidential contest. But if the polls are correct, it may be that one core GOP constituency has a completely different problem: they have too many appealing choices.

The ability of Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum to stay in the race though all are trailing badly in both polls of likely Iowa caucus-goers and national surveys is that each has managed to hold onto a loyal cadre of social conservatives. They are very different in their backgrounds, personalities and governing styles. But they share a devotion to social issues such as opposition to abortion, and the success of their candidacies depend on their ability to capture the lion’s share of the evangelical voters who propelled Mike Huckabee to an upset win in Iowa four years ago. They also share a problem: with all three hanging on, it is becoming increasingly apparent they will cancel each other out and ensure the victory of a Republican who doesn’t share their social passions.

That is what caused the Family Leader’s Bob Vander Plaats to call all three this past weekend to ask them to consider forming a joint ticket with one of the others in this evangelical primary rather than seeing them go down fighting together on Jan. 3. Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley, of the Iowa Family Policy Center, wound up endorsing Santorum, a move that gave his flagging hopes a well-timed boost. But the message behind that futile appeal for unity on the right was not lost. It’s become clear that in the absence of a last minute withdrawal by one of the three, the opportunity for another Huckabee-style win for social conservatives is going to be lost.

That’s good news for the others in the race, especially Mitt Romney. With Newt Gingrich fading in no small measure due to his inability to close the sale with religious Christians, Romney may be left with only extremist libertarian Ron Paul as the competition for the top spot in Iowa. That won’t please social conservatives who have never warmed to the former Massachusetts governor. But with Perry, Bachmann and Santorum dividing approximately a quarter of Republicans between them, there doesn’t seem to be any way for any of the three to break and win.

Back in August when she took the Iowa Straw Poll, Bachmann seemed to have a stranglehold on the social conservative vote in the state where she was born. But the emergence of Perry took the wind out of her sails and she never recovered. Perry’s disastrous debate performances made his stay in the frontrunner’s seat brief, but his good humor has allowed him to retain enough support to hang on. Santorum has been working hard in Iowa, but up until the last week he has gotten little traction.

But for all of the gnashing of teeth among social conservatives about a missed opportunity, no one should think that there was a path to the nomination for any of these three even if two of them were to drop out right now. If, as Vander Plaats desired, only one of them were to be running in the caucus, that candidate would have, as Huckabee did, an excellent chance of taking first place with less than 30 percent of the vote.

But everything we know about Perry, Bachmann and Santorum tells us that even if one of them were to win in Iowa, it would be difficult, if not impossible, for them to parlay that into the national momentum needed to win the Super Tuesday and later primary states. Had he not opened his mouth too often during the debates and convinced most of the country that he was a fool, Perry had the resume and the ability mobilize southern and western conservatives in order to be the GOP nominee. But contrary to those predicting a revival for his hopes, that ship sailed even before Perry said “oops” about his famous memory lapse.

As for Bachmann and Santorum, though each has strengths, neither has mainstream appeal. Like Huckabee, an Iowa victory for either would be a case of one and done.

That leaves the outcome of the evangelical primary in Iowa to be something of an academic exercise. One of the trio might get enough votes to sneak into the top three and claim a victory of sorts. But no matter which of them gets the most votes, evangelicals will remember this year’s Iowa caucus as a case of an abundance of choices that ensured their influence would not be decisive.

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Inside Romney’s Rise to Top of GOP Heap

The latest survey of Iowa Republican caucus goers confirms the rapid decline in Newt Gingrich’s fortunes. A Rasmussen poll conducted Monday and published today shows Mitt Romney vaulting into the lead with 25 percent, Ron Paul in second with 20 percent, and Newt Gingrich lagging behind in third with 17 percent.

There are a few notable elements about this poll. First is the continuation of Gingrich’s slide which shows him with only about half as much support as he had just about a month ago in Iowa. Second are the steady gains that both Romney and Paul have made with each advancing 2 points in the last week. Third is the fact that for the first time, Rick Santorum is finally gaining some traction in Iowa and most specifically passing Michele Bachmann. But last and perhaps most significant is the fact that Romney is, according to Rasmussen, leading among those voters who “consider themselves Republicans,” while Paul is ahead among non-Republicans likely to participate in the caucus. That bodes well for the former Massachusetts governor and illustrates again how implausible Paul’s hopes for the nomination really are.

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The latest survey of Iowa Republican caucus goers confirms the rapid decline in Newt Gingrich’s fortunes. A Rasmussen poll conducted Monday and published today shows Mitt Romney vaulting into the lead with 25 percent, Ron Paul in second with 20 percent, and Newt Gingrich lagging behind in third with 17 percent.

There are a few notable elements about this poll. First is the continuation of Gingrich’s slide which shows him with only about half as much support as he had just about a month ago in Iowa. Second are the steady gains that both Romney and Paul have made with each advancing 2 points in the last week. Third is the fact that for the first time, Rick Santorum is finally gaining some traction in Iowa and most specifically passing Michele Bachmann. But last and perhaps most significant is the fact that Romney is, according to Rasmussen, leading among those voters who “consider themselves Republicans,” while Paul is ahead among non-Republicans likely to participate in the caucus. That bodes well for the former Massachusetts governor and illustrates again how implausible Paul’s hopes for the nomination really are.

Examining these trends in greater detail, it’s clear that Gingrich’s decline is no longer in doubt. Since his campaign was always something of a house of cards, the final two weeks before the caucus may see his support decline even further. That will mean not only an ignominious end for what seemed only a month ago to be a campaign headed to victory in Iowa but the harbinger of a swift end to his hopes elsewhere.

Some may interpret Romney’s progress as more evidence of his inability to gain more than a quarter of the vote, but his slow creep toward the top illustrates that he has reversed the negative momentum that seemed to stall his campaign a few weeks ago. Paul’s gains will be greeted with dismay by mainstream Republicans who are unhappy about this extremist’s prominence in the party, but if he is taking away votes from conservatives who want anyone but Romney, that will merely strengthen the former Massachusetts governor in the long run because any outcome in Iowa other than a Gingrich win makes his nomination more likely.

As for Santorum, it appears his months of beating the bushes in Iowa and going to every county in the state to appeal to social conservatives is finally paying off. His support has doubled in the last month and, though it still leaves him with only 10 percent, it is clear that five percent probably came from Gingrich. Even more, it finally pushes him ahead of Bachmann, who is largely competing for the same voters as the former Pennsylvania senator. Bachmann’s decline from nine percent a week ago to six today is significant. Combined with the endorsement from a major evangelical figure in the state (which did not figure into responses in this poll) this gives Santorum hope that his momentum will grow in the campaign’s final days. I have already written that I thought one of those two will finish in the top three in Iowa and I’m standing by that prediction, though it appears more likely now the one to do so will be Santorum rather than Bachmann (as I thought a couple of days ago).

Lastly, the figures that show Romney winning among Republican voters should pour cold water on the expectation that the party’s grass roots won’t support him. This may be more a matter of a belief in his greater electability over any of the other candidates than affection for Romney, but the effect is the same. Once Iowa and New Hampshire have finished voting, most of the next states up for competition won’t be open enrollment, which means the GOP core will decide this nomination.

This is also a reminder that support for Paul is not coming so much from Tea Party or social conservative activists but from more marginal and disaffected elements. One would hope that as more voters learn about the extremist nature of his views, and of his connection to hate literature, that his share of the vote would decline. But no matter what happens in Iowa, Paul still has no chance of winning over most Republicans. It also should illustrate my belief that the possibility of him running as a third party candidate is more of a threat to the Democrats than to the Republicans.

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Is There Still Time for an Iowa Surprise?

I think Alana is right when she says the main beneficiary of Newt Gingrich’s free-fall in Iowa will be Mitt Romney. In fact, as I wrote earlier today, any outcome in the first caucus other than a Gingrich victory plays into Romney’s hands. Even if a dark horse candidate like Ron Paul takes the state or one of the second-tier conservatives sneaks into the winner’s circle, the net effect will be to destroy the former Speaker’s hopes for the nomination. That will leave Romney in effect the only mainstream candidate left standing and, though his path will not necessarily be easy, it would then be hard to imagine anyone else becoming the nominee.

But though the various polls of likely caucus-goers are showing Paul, Gingrich and Romney as the only potential winners, a word of caution is needed. Anyone who thinks this isn’t a volatile race whose outlines can change radically from week to week hasn’t been paying attention. It also needs to be pointed out that Tea Partiers and social conservatives who abandon a sinking Gingrich in the next two weeks have two other logical candidates they could turn to: Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. That’s why the betting here is that one of those two will wind up edging into the top three or better in Iowa by the time the caucus is finished.

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I think Alana is right when she says the main beneficiary of Newt Gingrich’s free-fall in Iowa will be Mitt Romney. In fact, as I wrote earlier today, any outcome in the first caucus other than a Gingrich victory plays into Romney’s hands. Even if a dark horse candidate like Ron Paul takes the state or one of the second-tier conservatives sneaks into the winner’s circle, the net effect will be to destroy the former Speaker’s hopes for the nomination. That will leave Romney in effect the only mainstream candidate left standing and, though his path will not necessarily be easy, it would then be hard to imagine anyone else becoming the nominee.

But though the various polls of likely caucus-goers are showing Paul, Gingrich and Romney as the only potential winners, a word of caution is needed. Anyone who thinks this isn’t a volatile race whose outlines can change radically from week to week hasn’t been paying attention. It also needs to be pointed out that Tea Partiers and social conservatives who abandon a sinking Gingrich in the next two weeks have two other logical candidates they could turn to: Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. That’s why the betting here is that one of those two will wind up edging into the top three or better in Iowa by the time the caucus is finished.

Any such outcome will be judged a big surprise at this point, especially since both Bachmann and Santorum seem stuck in the polls at around 10 percent in Iowa. But Bachmann, and to a lesser extent Santorum, have the right conservative credentials as well as an ability to connect with grassroots conservatives in a way Romney and Paul cannot.

It may seem like several years ago but, in fact, it was only four months ago that Michele Bachmann concluded a summer of unexpected prominence by winning the Iowa straw polls in Ames. But unfortunately for her, Rick Perry’s decision to announce that same day took the steam out of her victory. Though his boomlet soon fizzled, she never quite recovered.

Most pundits wrote Bachmann off after she went off the tracks with goofy accusations about Perry’s Texas vaccination program. But her evisceration of Newt Gingrich’s Washington cronyism and Freddie Mac boodle in last Thursday night’s debate not only may have greatly damaged the former Speaker, but it might also put a spark back into her campaign. Bachmann’s strong ties to Iowa and her concentration on the state made her a potential favorite there back when her candidacy was on the upswing. In the intervening months, Perry, Cain and Gingrich have all had their moments in the sun as the leading “not Romney” in the race. It may be too late for Bachmann to regain the momentum she had back in August, but a surge on her behalf is not out of the question.

The odds of Santorum taking advantage of Gingrich’s decline seem less likely. Santorum has been relentlessly beating the bushes in every county in the state trying to convince social conservatives to vote for him. Though both have obvious weaknesses that make their nomination highly implausible, Bachmann has a better chance of channeling some conservative enthusiasm.

Iowa voters have often confounded pollsters in the past, and any objective reading of the various polls ought to discourage anyone from making blithe predictions about the outcome on Jan. 3. But if Gingrich truly is in a free-fall, my hunch is that enough of his support will wind up in Bachmann’s column, which will allow her to declare a victory of sorts.

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Last Dance in Iowa Brings Gingrich Back to the Pack

A few days ago, Newt Gingrich looked to be rolling to the nomination, and Mitt Romney seemed headed for an inevitable loss. But the last debate before the Iowa caucus ended with the former Speaker headed back to the pack. Gingrich had some strong moments in Sioux City, but the beating he took on his consulting work for Freddie Mac from Michele Bachmann brought into focus the questions about his record that many Republicans have been ignoring in recent weeks.

Mitt Romney recovered from his poor performance last Saturday and was back to the steady, confident debater he was earlier in the campaign. But the story was not so much his strong showing as it was the ability of Bachmann and even Rick Perry to score some points. If, as today’s Rasmussen poll indicates, voters are starting to have second thoughts about Gingrich’s ability to beat President Obama, then the ability of the second-tier conservatives to eat into the former Speaker’s support may be crucial in deciding the outcome of the caucus next month. Though Ron Paul, the candidate who seemed in the best position to threaten Gingrich’s lead, had a terrible night as he was flayed by Bachmann for his irresponsible support for Iran, the net result of the field evening out in this manner is to Romney’s advantage.

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A few days ago, Newt Gingrich looked to be rolling to the nomination, and Mitt Romney seemed headed for an inevitable loss. But the last debate before the Iowa caucus ended with the former Speaker headed back to the pack. Gingrich had some strong moments in Sioux City, but the beating he took on his consulting work for Freddie Mac from Michele Bachmann brought into focus the questions about his record that many Republicans have been ignoring in recent weeks.

Mitt Romney recovered from his poor performance last Saturday and was back to the steady, confident debater he was earlier in the campaign. But the story was not so much his strong showing as it was the ability of Bachmann and even Rick Perry to score some points. If, as today’s Rasmussen poll indicates, voters are starting to have second thoughts about Gingrich’s ability to beat President Obama, then the ability of the second-tier conservatives to eat into the former Speaker’s support may be crucial in deciding the outcome of the caucus next month. Though Ron Paul, the candidate who seemed in the best position to threaten Gingrich’s lead, had a terrible night as he was flayed by Bachmann for his irresponsible support for Iran, the net result of the field evening out in this manner is to Romney’s advantage.

There were no obvious gaffes. But there were some memorable moments as Bachmann stood up to both Gingrich and Paul, subjecting both to withering attacks. Gingrich recovered to some extent with strong attacks on President Obama on the Keystone XL pipeline cancellation and on liberal judges. But if his goal was to maintain his momentum, he failed. Gingrich was subjected to tough questioning that diminished his ability to stay on top.

The debate was more important to Gingrich than the others because his weak organization in the state made it imperative he head into the final weeks with a big lead. Though it can be argued by the end of the night he had recovered some of the ground he lost when he was being backed into a corner by Bachmann, it still meant that he was, at best, no better off than when he began.

Paul’s extremist foreign policy, which was thoroughly exposed by both the moderators and his conservative opponents, should sink any hopes that his followers might have about the libertarian extremist squeaking out a narrow plurality. That has to help Gingrich, but strong showings by Bachmann and Perry (who will be best remembered for his line about being the political version of Tim Tebow), will eat into Gingrich’s lead and diminish the notion that he is the default “anti-Romney” for many conservatives.

Romney’s path to victory in Iowa — which would set him on an easy path to the nomination — is predicated on a divided conservative field. If Gingrich is headed back to the pack and with some of the second-tier candidates gaining ground rather than fading into obscurity, then Romney may be back on track.

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Bachmann’s Rise Gives Her the Anti-Romney Lead—For Now

Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll showing Michele Bachmann at 15 percent—only ten points behind Mitt Romney—may not have been surprising, but it has changed the dynamic. What was once the race between Not Romney and Not Palin has become Not Romney vs. Not Bachmann.

Conservative grassroots would love to have a serious challenger to Romney. Ironically, however, their search helps solidify Romney’s early lead because they can’t seem to settle on one that could peel off any of Romney’s establishment support.

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Yesterday’s Quinnipiac poll showing Michele Bachmann at 15 percent—only ten points behind Mitt Romney—may not have been surprising, but it has changed the dynamic. What was once the race between Not Romney and Not Palin has become Not Romney vs. Not Bachmann.

Conservative grassroots would love to have a serious challenger to Romney. Ironically, however, their search helps solidify Romney’s early lead because they can’t seem to settle on one that could peel off any of Romney’s establishment support.

Additionally, as was noted at Red State, the more anti-Romney candidates get in the race, the more diluted the anti-Romney coalition becomes:

There is a lot of money on the sidelines waiting to find who is going to be the legitimate leader of the anti-Romney coalition. Rick Perry getting in delays finding that leader, keeping that money on the sidelines, keeping Mitt Romney on top. It really is that simple.

The other side of the Rick Perry coin is that some believe Perry could be the one to encroach on Romney’s monopoly of elite support. So Perry’s participation prevents existing candidates like Bachmann from solidifying grassroots support. And Bachmann’s candidacy has been suffocating Tim Pawlenty, who was supposed be the acceptable alternative to Romney.

All this has caused the frustration of the anti-Romney caucus to become palpable. Leading the way has been the Wall Street Journal, which wrote an editorial in May calling Romney “Obama’s running mate.” It called for an ideological conservative nominee, not a problem solver. Romney remains incompatible with where the heart of the conservative movement is today. And unlike Perry, Bachmann is actually in the race, debating well thus far, and gaining on Romney steadily. There may not be a not-Bachmann. There may be only Bachmann.

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