Political Animal


January 03, 2012 7:45 PM Caucus night in Iowa

By Steve Benen

In about 15 minutes, roughly 150,000 Republicans in Iowa will gather for the 2012 Republican presidential caucuses. I’ll update this post with results as they’re available, but in the meantime, I thought I’d open the floor to some discussion.

Any predictions on the results? Eager for the Iowa-focused discussion to end? Planning to watch the Sugar Bowl tonight instead?

Let’s hear it.

8:15 update: CNN posted the results of entrance polls tonight, with Paul, Romney, and Santorum, as expected, making up the top three. It’s worth keeping in mind, though, that in 2008, Romney appeared to have the advantage in the entrance polls, but finished second.

8:48 update: Several of the news networks are projecting that Bachmann will finish last tonight (which is to say, sixth, since Huntsman isn’t trying to compete in Iowa and will actually finish last). Remember when Bachmann won the Ames Straw Poll? Well, August was a long time ago.

9:27 update: With about 22% of the results in, Paul is running first with 23.9%, followed by Santorum with 23.6%, and Romney with 22.3%. In the arguably-more-interesting race for fourth, Gingrich appears to have the edge over Perry, 13.3% to 10%. Of course, with 22% of the results in, we’re really only talking about 22,000 Iowans.

9:45 update: With about 31% of the results in, Romney is running first with 23.4%, followed by Santorum with 23%, and Paul with 22.8%. In the arguably-more-interesting race for fourth, Gingrich still leads Perry, 13.2% to 10.2%. Only 189 votes separate the top three candidates.

9:51 update: Going back over the last 36 years of Republican caucuses in Iowa, Bob Dole’s 26% in 1996 was the lowest vote percentage of any winner (it was in a seven-candidate field). Tonight’s winner, in a six-candidate field, will probably not meet that threshold, making one of these guys the weakest winner to date.

10:08 update: With about 47% of the results in, Santorum is running first with 24.1%, followed by Romney with 23.9%, and Paul with 21.9%. Gingrich still leads Perry in the race for fourth, 13.2% to 10%. Only about 1,100 votes separate the top three candidates.

10:32 update: Fox News is reporting that Gingrich will, in fact, come in fourth, with Perry fifth. Expect a whole lot of talk later this week about whether (how soon?) Perry quits.

10:38 update: With about 52% of the results in, Santorum is running first with 24.3%, followed by Romney with 23.7%, and Paul with 21.6%. Gingrich leads Perry in the race for fourth, 13.3% to 10.2%. Santorum’s lead over Romney is only 354 votes, and Romney’s lead over Paul is only 1,218 votes.

10:50 update: With about 79% of the results in, there’s been another shake-up. Romney is running first with 24.9%, followed by Santorum with 24.4%, and Paul with 21.2%. Romney’s lead over Santorum is only 492 votes.

10:52 update: NBC News is reporting that Paul will end up finishing third.

10:55 update: With 88% of the results in, Santorum leads Romney, 24.6% to 24.5%. Just 45 votes separate them.

11:20 update: With 92% of the results in, Romney leads Santorum by just 13 votes.

11:33 update: With 93% of the results in, Santorum leads Romney by 134 votes.

11:49 update: With 96% of the results in, Santorum leads Romney by 113 votes.

11:58 update: It sure sounds like Perry is going to quit.

Midnight: In the immortal words of the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “All right, we’ll call it a draw.” Whichever one of these two manage to come out on top, the results are effectively the same: Romney spent well over $4 million in Iowa, only to discover (a) three-quarters of Republicans still don’t like him; and (b) he tied a guy who spent about one-eighth the amount of money and was polling in single digits as recently as a few weeks ago.

Tonight’s big winner is obvious: his name is Barack Obama.

And with that, I’m calling it a night. I’ll have plenty more in the morning.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Stacy on January 03, 2012 7:51 PM:

    I'll keep track of the caucus but...yawn...I still think that the likely GOP nominee is Romney, no matter how things shake out in Iowa tonight.

  • @the_dan on January 03, 2012 7:52 PM:

    Sugar Bowl! I get vicarious embarrassment for pundits on election nights.

  • Ronval912 on January 03, 2012 8:21 PM:

    There is a caucus tonight? Where?

  • Quaker in a Basement on January 03, 2012 8:33 PM:

    Is it too late to reanimate Cain-mentum?

  • gkoutnik on January 03, 2012 8:40 PM:

    Romney, Paul, Santorum in that order.

  • Ron Byers on January 03, 2012 8:55 PM:

    Santorum, Paul and Romney in that order.

    Romney's super pac destroyed Gingrich, but they simply told the truth. The operative word in the forgoing sentence is "Romney's." I think the Iowa voters understand the attacks belong to Romney and he has been far too smug.

  • rrk1 on January 03, 2012 9:13 PM:

    I suppose one could see this as great entertainment, because it isn't much else. Whatever happens in Iowa is irrelevant. Political discourse in this country has become ludicrous, and anyone paying real attention to this farce would be better off masturbating in the corner. At least that might produce a result.

  • Squeaky McCrinkle on January 03, 2012 9:35 PM:

    This just in from a conservative-leaning friend: "We like Ron Paul for his really logical and conservative stance. He wants to cut off all aid to foreign countries."

    Can the lunatics are take over the asylum again?

    One way and another, Romney's won this race, big time.

  • Herschel on January 03, 2012 9:37 PM:

    Any way for Alan Keyes to squeek in? God I want performance artist Alan Keyes to be the nominee. Especially when it comes out that he's gay, which he obviously is. "Bawack Obama ith a wadical communitht." Okay, okay, lisping isn't intrinsically gay, but it's funny. And okay, okay, Alan Keyes doesn't actually lisp, but he talks in a decidedly fussy, mincing kind of way, and yes I'm just sort of free-associating. Alan Keyes! All the way, baby!

  • Joe Friday on January 03, 2012 9:46 PM:

    "Paul is running first with 23.9%, followed by Santorum with 23.6%, and Romney with 22.3%"

    Go Ricky !

    That would really throw sand in the gears.

  • Ron Byers on January 03, 2012 10:24 PM:

    The big story, that nobody will talk about, coming out of Iowa is the relatively low turnout. A lot of Iowa Republicans seem to have voted none of the above.

  • zeitgeist on January 03, 2012 10:57 PM:

    the turnout looks to be slightly higher (immaterially so) than 2008.

  • Ron Byers on January 03, 2012 11:08 PM:

    But given the enormous tea party wave in 2010 and the enormous anti-Obama vote you would expect a much bigger turnout.

  • Goldilocks on January 03, 2012 11:35 PM:

    What a freak show.

  • Walmarton Friedman on January 03, 2012 11:36 PM:

    After the investment bankers wrecked the financial system and paralyzed our economy, it's still surprising that even 25% of Republicans support the President of Bain Capital.

  • exlibra on January 03, 2012 11:38 PM:


    What about the Dem turnout? You guys are caucusing tonight too, aren't you? I realise it's not as exciting, since we got an incumbent but I understand that Obama wanted a show of force anyway and Debbie Wassermann-Schultz (spell? Mrs DNC) burbled (on Facebook) a bit about some highschool or other, caucusing for Dems.

  • charlie don't surf on January 03, 2012 11:46 PM:

    Hey, no coverage of the Democratic Caucus? We had heavy activity by Occupy Wall Street. No, not disruptions. I personally spoke as a representative of OWS to a combined Democratic caucus with an audience of maybe 500 people. I advocated voting Uncommitted, as a protest. I have reports of several Dem precincts that had enough voters to elect Uncommitted delegates.

    Yeah, of course Obama's going to win the nomination. But what is the point of having any vote in the caucus at all when there's an incumbent president who will run again? The point is: make your dissent known. The Democratic machine pushed for a unanimous renomination. It didn't happen.

    I don't know about OWS actions at Republican caucuses. I'm in a heavily Democratic county, most of our Occupiers wanted to caucus and there are very few Republicans in our movement locally.

  • zeitgeist on January 03, 2012 11:48 PM:

    i ended up having to stay at work instead of attending, but it sounds like several Dem caucuses were pretty well attended. Media hasn't given any counts on that.

    Walmarton: the median household income in Iowa is about $47000. Entrance polls showed 67% of Republican caucus attendees made over $50000 (and 27% made over $100000). Note the similarity between that latter percentage and Mitt's vote. . . coincidence?

  • zeitgeist on January 04, 2012 12:01 AM:

    per Iowa Dem Party FB post, it appears about 25000 Dems showed up.

  • N.Wells on January 04, 2012 12:02 AM:

    There is absolutely no reason for the R's to find Santorum any more acceptable than the other non-Romneys that they have already tried and found wanting. They picked on him because he is simply the next in line who isn't Romney and and because they don't yet know him well enough to dislike him to the degree he deserves. Romney is still likely to pull through to an eventual win, but it looks as though it will be unusually hard for the R's to pull together behind their candidate. If participation in Republican primaries dwindles as Romney secures a lock on the nomination, look for a general election pitting extravagant Republican expenditures to suppress, demoralize, and demonize Democrats versus the inability of Republicans to generate enthusiasm for their own candidate.

  • Anonymous on January 04, 2012 12:07 AM:

    Herman Cain got 57 votes. I wonder if the Palin write-in campaign got any votes.


  • mudwall jackson on January 04, 2012 12:09 AM:

    damn! my money was on buddy roemer

  • Joe Friday on January 04, 2012 12:15 AM:


    And by the worm, I mean the 'ANYBODY BUT WILLARD' worm.

  • burro on January 04, 2012 12:24 AM:

    11:58 update: It sure sounds like Perry is going to quit.

    Hasta la vista pendejo.

  • Dougl on January 04, 2012 12:46 AM:

    You are so wrong. The big winner tonight is Michigan. Go Blue!

  • OKDem on January 04, 2012 1:15 AM:

    The rich [pun intended] part was Willard actually proclaimed that he was going to win yesterday. Mitten's reputation of cool calculation among inside the Beltway pundits is belied by his steady stream of such dumb stunts.

    He is just plain arrogant and figured if Newt was falling, he could crow. Now he is eating crow, cold.

    Everyone writes off Paul but he is within 3% of Mittens who picked up zilch point nada above where he polled for the last 6 years. Essentially NO undecided broke his way.

  • mfw13 on January 04, 2012 4:24 AM:

    Indeed an excellent night for Obama.

    1) Romney still can't get close to 30% support among GOP primary voters.
    2) Paul emerges as a serious force, but has no chance at winning the nomination because of his liberatarian positions on social issues (he's not just pro-choice, but also believes drugs, prostitution, and homosexuality are all ok).
    3) Santorum, somebody who has no chance in the general election, emerges as the #1 choice of religious conservatives, despite having no political organization in place outside of Iowa.

    Which means that the GOP primary will likely be contested well into June (when the California primary takes place), and possibly even until the convention itself in August, since neither Romney or Paul will drop out under any circumstances, and having rejected Gingrich, the religious right will have no choice but to coalesce around Santorum.

  • Late night on January 04, 2012 5:13 AM:

    The Washington Examiner says Ron Paul may end up with more Iowa delegates in Orlando than either Romney or Santorum because his supporters will stick around thru the night (and days ahead) to become national delegates.

    Not that it matters, at this point, compared to the horse race-beauty contest that just finished . . . but comments at the (right-wing) Examiner imply that many Paulites will follow him to a third party should he head off in that direction.

    Something to watch going forward, eh?

  • A. D. on January 04, 2012 5:43 AM:

    I'm at the point now where I have gotten alittle sick of the tactics of OWS. How do I go about protesting them?

  • sick-n-effn-tired. on January 04, 2012 8:02 AM:

    four hundredths of one percent of the population has spoken .
    We can all sit back in awe as they have surely predicted the next president

  • rrk1 on January 04, 2012 8:28 AM:

    Landslide Williard will no doubt declare a mandate.

    The thought of the Rethug clowns tearing each other apart from now until August is delicious. The thought of Paul going independent is irresistible. Obama sure is the winner here.

    I doubt Sanctimonious Ricky Dicky Santorum will do so well in NH. They may be conservative up there, and think ol' Landslide has something to offer, and not particularly care that he's a Mormon, but a radical religious fanatic like Santorum isn't going to get much traction. On the other hand, let them nominate the wannabe Pope. What entertainment that will be.

    And the rest of the world snickers at the bunch of jerks the premier democracy has served up as potential 'leaders' of the 'free' world.

    Captcha is on a tear this morning.

  • chi res on January 04, 2012 9:44 AM:

    I'm at the point now where I have gotten alittle sick of the tactics of OWS. How do I go about protesting them?

    Duh. Occupy OWS.

  • waddanut on January 04, 2012 10:47 AM:

    I understand that with all of the "Palin Earthquake" ads, $arah Palin did pretty well with the write-in votes. She got 15 votes!! That translates out about $5k per vote.

  • Gregory on January 04, 2012 2:42 PM:

    I'm surprised no one else has mentioned it, but for the record, it's King Aerhur who says "We'll call it a draw" after lopping off the Black Knight's arms and legs, because the Black Knight still refuses to quit (and even accuses Arthur of running away).