If Mitt Romney wins next week’s Iowa caucuses, blame global warming.
Mild weather on caucus night Jan. 3 would help a well-funded moderate like the former Massachusetts governor. However, if one of Iowa’s fierce winter storms should hit next Tuesday, the blizzard would favor those candidates with more fanatical supporters, including Texas Rep. Ron Paul. At least that’s how former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee sees it.
“If the weather is good, Mitt Romney is in better shape. If the weather is bad and it’s real tough to get out, Ron Paul will win,” Huckabee said on “Fox News Sunday.” Huckabee, who scored an upset win in Iowa four years ago, said Paul’s supporters have “extraordinary devotion” and are willing to “walk over broken glass for him.”
At this point, meteorological predictions would appear to favor Romney. The Weather Channel 10-day forecast for Cedar Rapids, Iowa — where I’ll be flying in Monday to begin eight days of campaign coverage — shows mostly sunny and relatively warm weather for the Hawkeye State. Only one day (Monday, Jan. 2) between now and the first-in-the-nation caucuses will have a high temperature below freezing. Several days will have highs in the low 40s. No snow is forecast in the next 10 days, and there is only one day with a 20 percent chance of rain. For the actual day of the caucuses, the current forecast is for mostly sunny skies with a high of 36 degrees.
Such predictions would appear to impair the prospects of a victory by the libertarian Paul, but Huckabee told Mike Wallace of Fox News he sees the potential for one other candidate to outperform the political forecast. “Rick Santorum, I believe is being greatly underestimated in this race. I believe he will be the surprise candidate, not necessarily to win it, but to be in the top three or four when people don’t expect him to be,” he said.
Two recent Iowa polls, including the latest survey by Rasmussen Reports, have shown Santorum with 10 percent support. For months, Santorum’s poll numbers have been stuck in the single digits, while the former Pennsylvania senator has relentlessly campaigned in all 99 Iowa counties. In the past three weeks, however, Santorum’s candidacy has been boosted by favorable mentions from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and radio talk-show hosts Mark Levin and Glenn Beck. Santorum has also added endorsements by important social conservative leaders in the Hawkeye State, including Pastor Cary Gordon and Bob Vander Plaats, as well as Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz.
Polls during the past week have shown a sharp decline for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who left the campaign trail in Iowa last week to hold events in Virginia, as part of an effort to get his name on the ballot in that state’s March 6 primary. That attempt fell short — only Romney and Paul qualified for the Virginia ballot — and his failure may further undermine perceptions of Gingrich as a credible conservative alternative to Romney. “It’s a disaster for him,” University of Virginia political science professor Larry J. Sabato told the New York Times. “This sends yet another signal to Republicans that Gingrich is not able to organize.”
If recent polls in Iowa are an accurate barometer, Santorum’s low-budget underdog campaign may be poised for a last-minute surge at just the right time to boost him ahead in the pack of so-called “second tier” Republican candidates that also includes Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman. One veteran observer of Hawkeye State politics sees those candidates fighting, along with Gingrich, for a spot in the top three on Jan. 3.
“Iowa is not about who wins, but it’s about who gets one of the three tickets out,” Iowa GOP consultant Steve Grubbs told Davenport’s Quad-City Times. “It’s my belief you will have a moderate, a conservative and a libertarian. The question is, who will be the conservative?”
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