69 Days to Iowa: Winners Never Quit - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
69 Days to Iowa: Winners Never Quit

Having read Quin Hillyer’s suggestion that Texas Gov. Rick Perry “do a Pawlenty” and John Tabin’s lament about the weakness of the Republican presidential field, I feel compelled to inject some facts into the discussion.

First: Perry came into October with about $15 million in the bank, so whatever he does, Perry will not “do a Pawlenty.” Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, a weak candidate all along, staked everything on winning the Iowa GOP Straw Poll at Ames, where he finished a poor third behind Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and Texas Rep. Ron Paul. By that time, T-Paw was heavily in debt, his top staffers having postponed payment of their salaries for weeks in hope that a win at Ames would retrieve their fortunes. Pawlenty, who had $2 million cash on hand as of July 1, was about $450,000 in the red (and with zero prospects of revival) by the time he pulled the plug Aug. 14.

With $15 million, Perry isn’t going to be quitting anytime soon, despite his abysmal poll numbers (sixth in Iowa, seventh in New Hampshire, fifth in Nevada, a weak third in the RCP national average). Even if his “burn rate” is $4 million a month, Perry will still be in the field through the first five campaign events, ending Feb. 4 with the Nevada caucuses. It seems unlikely at this point that Perry can come back to beat former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the nomination but …

“At this point” is the key phrase there, you see? And that’s why I’m dubious about Tabin’s perception of a hopelessly flawed GOP field, reflecting Jennifer Rubin’s summary of Tuesday’s events, which in turn cites the assessments of David Freddoso at the Examiner and Jeff Anderson of the Weekly Standard. Most caucus and primary voters in the early states aren’t political junkies and therefore aren’t following the campaign with the intensity of focus necessary to pick up all these gaffes and stumbles as meaningful events. And are these really such cataclysmic disasters?

Rubin says “Herman Cain jumped the shark with a bizarre ad featuring his smoking campaign manager.” Well, the YouTube video featuring Mark Block (filmed, BTW, in front of the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas) has been viewed about 650,000 times and gotten airings on network TV. Did everyone who watched it have the same negative reaction as Rubin and other commentators? Are voters in Iowa and New Hampshire fleeing the Cain campaign in droves as a result? Or is all this uproar over the YouTube video just free publicity for the Cain campaign?

We are now 69 days from the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. Go back 69 days to Aug. 18 — five days after Perry entered the field, and four days after Pawlenty quit — and we find the RCP average had Romney at 20.2%, Perry at 18.4%, Bachmann at 9.6%, Paul at 8.8% and Cain at 5%, in a tie for fifth with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

No one at that point, 69 days ago, predicted that when Oct. 26 arrived, Cain would be leading Romney 25.9% to 24.9% in the RCP average. If Cain can manage to keep that up another 69 days, and wins the Iowa caucuses (where he’s leading by substantial margins in recent polls), will he still be viewed as “not up to the task,” to borrow Karl Rove’s phrase?

Victory tends to become its own argument, and whoever emerges ahead of the GOP pack after the first five delegate-selection events — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, Florida and Nevada — will not be a “weak” candidate.

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