With the new evidence that Romney is getting trounced in Iowa, Ambinder speculates that this helps deflate the expectations surrounding Romney’s performance in Iowa and ends up making his much more likely defeat there less embarrassing. Well, maybe. But what can it say about the candidate who has pitched himself as Mr. Social Conservative and now, after Thursday’s speech, would-be leader against the forces of godlessness that he has spent much of the last year and $7 million on his campaign in Iowa and still couldn’t close the deal with people who ought to be, if they believed what the man said about his newfound-yet-deep convictions, his natural constituency? Romney’s lead in New Hampshire will be (and perhaps should be) discounted to some extent because he’s from Massachusetts and his has been a familiar name in New Hampshire for years thanks to the Boston media market. Anything short of a dominant performance in New Hampshire will be interpreted as signs of impending collapse.
In the last 20 years eventual GOP nominees win Iowa and South Carolina, but sometimes lose New Hampshire–it’s really not a good sign for Romney that he’s on track to do the opposite. It’s fairly terrifying that Huckabee is currently in position to try to follow this path to the nomination, but that’s another story. Still, there is something gratifying about this outcome. Romney’s one definite political convictition–that money can buy political victory, no matter how unappealing or uninspiring the candidate–has apparently been rejected by Iowans. Look at the graph of the RCP average for Iowa. Since Romney peaked in September over 30%, it’s been all downhill. The Romney and Huckabee lines follow each other in an eerie fashion until the end of September, which is when the current dynamic seems to have taken hold. There is really no way to spin these trends in a pro-Romney direction.