With Michele Bachmann’s campaign dying in one last burst of flames, and Newt Gingrich literally being reduced to tears as his poll numbers plummet, the most important question in Iowa might be who comes in third next Tuesday behind likely frontrunners Mitt Romney and Ron Paul. A new NBC-Marist poll (see below) has Gingrich and the Ricks, Santorum and Perry, bunched together at around 15 percent. The one who performs best next week will be positioned to soldier on as the conservative alternative to Romney. With Santorum’s numbers rising quickly, and Perry’s creeping up slowly, the two have spent the last two days trading potshots. Perry’s efforts have been boosted by influential RedState pundit Erick Erickson, who today unloaded on Santorum’s record in Congress, calling him a “pro-life statist,” a “big-government conservative” and (ouch!) an “earmarxist.”
For his part, Gingrich’s closing argument has been about a return to Reaganomics, underscored by the presence of Arthur Laffer, the supply-side guru. This morning, Gingrich made the day’s biggest headlines, first appearing weary and lamenting, “I can’t do modern politics.” Later, at a Des Moines coffee shop, he broke down and shed real tears when asked about his mother. Hey: It worked for Hillary in ’08!
SO THEY SAY
"You people disappoint me on Tuesday, you don't do what you are supposed to on Tuesday for Mitt Romney — I will be back Jersey-style, people. I will be back."
—Chris Christie, campaigning in Iowa
DAILY MEME: IOWA SUCKS
- Gail Collins, New York Times: “On Tuesday, there will be a contest to select the preferred candidate of a small group of people who are older, wealthier and whiter than American voters in general, and more politically extreme than the average Iowa Republican.
- Gene Lyons, Salon: “In essence, the Iowa caucuses amount to a marketing device for cable TV news channels.”
- Ezra Klein, Washington Post: “Let's all take a deep breath and agree that that iscompletely insane.”
- Catherine Poe, Washington Times: “It is not mainstream America, not even a microcosm of America, no matter how it tries to sell itself. If anything it’s the antithesis of what makes America America.”
WHAT WE'RE WRITING
- Why are so many veterans rallying behind Ron Paul? Patrick Caldwell reports from Iowa.
WHAT WE'RE READING
- While Gingrich has been bombarded by negative ads, Romney has ducked fire in Iowa.
- Ron Paul’s 1987 book decries workplace protections against sexual harassment, wonders why there’s not a white people’s caucus in Congress, and says “innocent citizens” were “victimized” by AIDS patients.
- The Obama campaign uses the caucuses to organize in Iowa.
- Our Destiny PAC, the outside group supporting Jon Huntsman, airs an anti-Romney ad in New Hampshire: “stop the chameleon.” '
POLL OF THE DAY
A new NBC-Marist poll has Romney at 23 percent in Iowa, Paul at 21—and a tight race for third place between Santorum (15), Perry (14), and Gingrich (13).