Bachmann off, Perry on the Republican rollercoaster

DES MOINES, Iowa/PITTSFIELD, New Hampshire Wed Jan 4, 2012 6:56pm EST

1 of 20. Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney is joined by U.S. Senator John McCain (R-AZ) (R) at a campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire January 4, 2012, one day after Romney won the Iowa caucus.

Credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

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DES MOINES, Iowa/PITTSFIELD, New Hampshire (Reuters) - The rough-and-tumble Republican race for the White House became even more entangled on Wednesday when Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann quit and Rick Perry decided to stay in after all.

Bachmann stepped down after a dismal sixth place finish in the Iowa caucuses, which were decided by a difference of only 8 votes out of the 122,000 that were cast.

Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney won Iowa by the tightest of margins over social conservative Rick Santorum, a former U.S. senator who had been all but ignored until his poll numbers began to rise a week ago.

As Romney arrived in New Hampshire, where he has a solid campaign infrastructure and is heavily favored to win the state's primary on January 10, he picked up the endorsement of Senator John McCain, who was the party's nominee in 2008.

The two former rivals appeared together a rally in Manchester where McCain made a strong speech against Democratic President Barack Obama and predicted a victory in New Hampshire would give Romney even more powerful momentum in a short time.

Despite vowing on Tuesday night to stay the course in the fight to be the Republican nominee, Bachmann finally threw in the towel. "I have decided to stand aside," said the conservative congresswoman, who pledged to support the Republican nominee, but not make an endorsement.

Throwing political pundits into confusion, Perry announced he is staying in the race for now, and would campaign in New Hampshire and South Carolina, after saying he would reassess his campaign because of a disappointing fifth-place Iowa performance.

"This is quirky place and a quirky process, to say the least. And we are going to go into places where they have actual primaries and there are going to be real Republicans voting," Perry told reporters at his hotel in Iowa.

Undecided New Hampshire voter Karen Eastman said she was not swayed by the Iowa results, which came after a dramatic night that saw Romney, Santorum and libertarian Ron Paul in a three-way race at one point.

"I think every state is different, so you really can't go by what happens (in Iowa)," said seamstress Eastman, 53. "Once they get in office a lot of them don't do what they say they're going to do. It's really hard to vote for anybody nowadays, it really is, because they don't mean what they say."

The unsettled race for the nomination to oppose Obama in November - which pollster Gallup said was the most topsy-turvy in 50 years - leaves an opening for former House of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich or Perry to get back to the top if Romney can't connect with more voters.

Both have southern connections - Perry is governor of Texas and Gingrich was a congressman from Georgia - and primaries in two southern states, South Carolina and Florida, are coming up on January 21 and January 31.

Perry, a steady leader in the money stakes, has $3-4 million on hand to fund a multi-state campaign, according to a knowledgeable source, and polls put him more likely than Bachmann to draw social conservatives' support from Santorum.

Gingrich can hope more strong debate performances like those that helped push him into the top tier of candidates in November. There are two more Republican debates in the next week.

"Mitt Romney obviously has a stranglehold on establishment Republicans, but if Mitt wants to wrap this nomination up he has to get beyond establishment Republicans," said Republican strategist Ford O'Connell.

GOOD NEWS FOR OBAMA

The volatility of the race may be good news for Obama, who is building a huge fundraising and vote-getting organization for the November general election. His poll numbers are improving as the high U.S. unemployment rate declines.

The lead has changed hands seven times since May, and there have been four different national frontrunners, Gallup said, making 2012 the most unsettled Republican presidential race since at least 1964.

That year, Barry Goldwater won the nomination, and suffered one of the worst general election defeats ever.

Romney and Santorum finished the Iowa contest with about 25 percent support each. Ron Paul, a Texas congressman known for his small-government views, was a close third with just over 21 percent. Gingrich came fourth, at about 13 percent.

The Iowa result boosted Romney's status as the person to beat in the nomination race, although the slim margin underscored his continuing inability to secure the trust of socially and fiscally conservative.

Known as a moderate when he was governor of heavily Democratic Massachusetts seven years ago, Romney had not been expected to do well in Iowa, where conservative Christian voters are a major influence on Republican politics.

At the end of September, Romney's campaign had 14.7 million cash on hand while Santorum's had $189,556, according to the candidates' Federal Election Commission filings.

Campaigning in all of Iowa's 99 counties, Santorum emphasized his home-schooled children and opposition to gay marriage in a bid for support from Christian conservatives. That strategy of staking his campaign on a strong showing in Iowa paid off, but with little cash and a bare-bones campaign operation he could have difficulty competing in other states.

A Suffolk University poll showed Romney at 43 percent support in New Hampshire, to 14 percent for Paul and 9 percent for former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who has based his campaign in the small New England State.

Gingrich was at just 7 percent and Santorum at 6 percent.

"There is a very unsettled Republican electorate... Essentially you got 75 percent of the party, at least as stated by Iowa, that are still looking for an alternative and I say that means there's a whole lot of blue sky for the rest of us in the race and this is anything but settled as this point," Huntsman said.

(Additional reporting by David Morgan, Susan Heavey and Patricia Zengerle in Washington, Scott Malone in New Hampshire, Jane Sutton and Steve Holland in Iowa and Karen Brooks in Texas, Writing by Patricia Zengerle, Editing by Alistair Bell and Christopher Wilson)

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Comments (46)
Ok so we’ve seen articles praising Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and… Rick Santorum? Didn’t he lose to the guy that lost so badly he pulled out of the race???

Any chance of an article about how likely Ron Paul is to win Iowa??

Just thinking it might be relevant seeing as he did win 2 Iowa polls…

Ron Paul 2012!!

By the way, yes we’re vocal, but I think the most important thing to recognize about Ron Paul supporters is just how numerous they are!

Jan 03, 2012 11:26pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Intriped wrote:
Go Ron Paul! This is a good omen irregardless of currently being in third place. Romney has a fight on his hands and the young of of our nation will decide on this portion of the GOP Candidate.

Jan 03, 2012 11:34pm EST  --  Report as abuse
x6blues wrote:
@Intriped: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StJ-OK4jiSY
*Irregardless, seriously? I’m a part of your “young” and you’re giving the entire lot of us a bad name, man!

Romney wasn’t even focusing all his efforts in Iowa, due to its entrenched evangelicalism, so his showing is all the more reason he’ll be nominated when all is said and done. Santorum hasn’t the organization, with respective funding, to compete all across the union. And more importantly, the Republican establishment and moderates will not accept Paul — FEC v. Citizens United is about to hit him hard. From the financial sector to the Military Industrial Complex (contractors from Boeing, Lockheed Martin, AIPAC, Saudis…anyone remotely considered an ally, i.e. Pakistan, or a part of defense), he hasn’t endeared himself to any interests other than his own. I don’t think gold mining and other operations, in which he has quite a stake in, is going to translate in terms of SuperPACs and other postmodern bits of campaign finance. The interests are gonna descend upon him.
*I’ve yet to hear that atrocity towards a democratic political system take center stage. Once campaigns were of the individual, but now — after the FEC v. Citizens United case — its more of connection to interests and their ability to fund. But now that Paul has had a decent showing, it most likely will become notable as he becomes one hell of a target.

Either way, I’d say Obama still has my vote — corporatism and subservience to New Age aristocracy has never been in my favor. And Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Dodd-Frank Wall St. Reform, and other bits have garnered my vote. The priority now is an end to obstructionists. Regardless of affiliation, if the Orderly Liquidation Authority and Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection hasn’t your support then masochists you must be, for the defeatist notion of allowing yourself to be exploited only flies if you’re of 7+ figures (which many are not). The former addresses the institutional “too big to fail” — in addition to increased credit cushions for liabilities, to mitigate chances of future bankruptcy — and the latter establishes standards all have to abide by. In addition, the Wall St. Reform calls for the Federal Reserve (voodoo term for the libertarian I know!) to conduct “stress tests” on banks to also offer additional countermeasures via oversight.
*All bits the GOP has been dead set against, including Ron Paul, and thus not implemented either by appointments being confirmed or appropriations. Each is a discussion of its own, but the supposed “status quo” seems to be superseded by legislation that is certainly /achievable/ in serving the majority. What has the opposition done exactly? Obstruction isn’t much of an accomplishment in a civil and functional democracy I’d say.

The free market musketeers should ask, what happens in a vacuum if the government is damn near abolished? Will corporatism and inherent self-interest supplant the state, or will everything just balance out? The Hayek mindset seems to have bystanders being thrown round and round and round at the discretion of financiers and other profiteers in just about every sector — I haven’t much control over at JP Morgan or BoA. And with the abolition of minimum wage and labor laws, it would seem those who own — really only class distinction: those who own vs. those who serve — would benefit astronomically. If there is one law in which we all abide, it is scarcity. Essentially, it’s your loss that is entirely another’s gain…not something I’d advocate.

Of course, every vote should be conditional, with everything from executive prosecution to reversals in NDAA, SOPA, etc, but the platform espoused probably deserves some prominence in addition to those /minor/ disagreements — in Ron Paul’s case, civil rights is at the forefront considering he advocates persons being near-sovereigns thus free to discriminate, segregate, bastardize, etc(siding with Goldwater isn’t very forward-thinking I’d imagine) or economic policy (especially considering his own interests in gold, it all seems a bit hypocritical).

…paragraphs of text, no one is gonna read this! I could do a 10 second soundbite but I got nothing.

Jan 04, 2012 12:46am EST  --  Report as abuse
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