Wrong but not completely surprised

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A week ago, this space was used to predict an Iowa Caucus win for Rep. Ron Paul of Texas. After the dust of a very heated race settled Tuesday evening, he found himself in third place.

The real story was former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney edging out former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum by eight votes.

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich finished fourth, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman.

For those of you keeping track at home, you know my prediction of the top four was completely off.

I'm not surprised I was wrong.

Romney was in the top echelon of every poll, sharing the spotlight with six other candidates at different times along the way. Honestly, I did not expect his supporters to show. Maybe the mild weather drew them, maybe Romney's last-minute push inspired them, or maybe the thought of someone else winning scared them.

Santorum was my dark-horse pick to win it all in Iowa. He's a Christian conservative and voters who identify themselves the same way have a pretty solid track record of caucusing. However, Bachmann and Perry were aggressively billing themselves the same way and had more money to do so, prompting the third-place prediction. Endorsements from prominent Christian conservatives in Iowa could have very well been the difference between almost winning and finishing third or worse.

Paul was well-represented by his supporters, but perhaps I overestimated their ability to persuade others. After all, Paul is a polarizing person.

Gingrich was starting to slip in the polls as I wrote last week's column, but I thought his supporters were less likely to waver or be persuaded to pick someone else.

Some say Iowa is good at picking losers, as candidates often pack their bags and go home if they don't fare well.

Rick Perry isn't ready to do that, despite fulfilling my fifth-place prediction. I'm guessing he thinks he can play well with other southerners, though South Carolina and Florida are quite a bit different than Texas. Plus, did he really expect to win Iowa after snubbing this state and announcing his candidacy elsewhere on the same day as the Iowa Straw Poll?

Bachmann, on the other hand, had put all her proverbial eggs into the same proverbial basket. Unlike Santorum, who did the same thing with extensive touring of the state, she will not be carrying her basket any further.

Huntsman is banking on a strong showing in New Hampshire, but likely won't make it far beyond the nation's first primary.

For the record, if Spencer's Ward 2 was representative of the entire state, I would have been 100 percent right.

I'm OK with being wrong, though, and I'll try again in another four years.