With less than three hours before the caucus begins, I just got off the phone with a Romney campaign guy on the ground in Iowa.
The lay of the land:
The Romney campaign stopped doing their overnight tracking poll during the Christmas season and did their first poll in a couple of weeks last night. The result – which, apparently, Mitt has not seen – has Huckabee ahead, but just barely – 27 to 25, and the undecided vote is huge. The interesting thing about it is that in one of the Iowa media markets, a local talk show blowhard has been railing on the Mormons for the past three to four months, calling them a cult with ambitions to take over the world. In every other media market, Mitt is ahead by 10 points. In Mr. Blowhard’s market, which is the largest in Iowa, Mitt is down by 10 points.
If Huckabee wins tonight, it’s because the Mormon bashing was effective.
The Romney guy sounded optimistic, because Mitt’s organization is without parallel. They refer to the Bush 2000 organization as the “gold standard” of Iowa get-out-the-vote operations. Mitt’s organization, in comparison, is the “platinum standard.” They have identified 51,000 committed Romney supporters – by name. If Romney can get about 30,000 of them out to caucus tonight, he wins handily. Romney has the means and the organization to make that happen. Huckabee has to rely on good luck and Evangelical passion, although, sadly, that may be enough.
Another interesting wrinkle is the fact that all of the independents will be caucusing with the Democrats to vote for Obama. That may be bad news for Romney, although it may also mean that there are fewer independents up for grabs, and Romney’s superior organization makes all the difference.
I’m cautiously optimistic myself, although I also admit to some wishful thinking. If Romney loses Iowa, it’s going to be almost impossible to beat McCain five days later in New Hampshire. And if McCain wins New Hampshire, he’s the nominee – which is even worse than a Giuliani win.
I vote for Barack over McCain. That says something for Barack, but it says a whole lot more about the disaster McCain would be for the future of the Republican Party.